Minneapolis will host college basketball’s Final Four tournament in 2019, and the location — the Minnesota Vikings’ new $1 billion stadium — was quickly credited Friday for making it possible.
The city’s bid committee, co-chaired by David Mortenson, president of Mortenson Construction, the builders of the stadium, huddled anxiously late Friday afternoon and watched as five Final Four locations for 2017 through 2021 were announced on live television.
“They gave us no sign,” Mortenson said moments after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing body for collegiate sports, made the announcement. “We were very nervous.”
Minneapolis’ odds were considered favorable — eight cities competed for five slots — and the bid committee’s members said they pushed the state-of-the-art stadium as a major selling point. University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague said Friday that,after the committee made a final presentation Tuesday, he felt that it didn’t “have a lot of weaknesses in our bid.”
Friday’s announcement came six months after Minneapolis was awarded the Super Bowl in 2018, and as city tourism officials announced an aggressive campaign to land other major sporting events like the Big Ten football championship and the newly formatted college football playoffs.
The Final Four is the latest premier sporting event to come to Minnesota, joining Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, which was held in July, and the Ryder Cup, which will be held at Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska in 2016.
Though Mortenson said no final decision has been made, Friday’s news also likely meant that the new stadium would host an NCAA men’s basketball regional event in 2018.
The Final Four announcement marks the third time in three decades that the event will take place in Minneapolis — the tournament was held at the since-demolished Metrodome in 1992 and 2001.
Stadium as ‘catalyst’
Officials wasted little time Friday touting the new publicly subsidized stadium, which will open in 2016, as the primary reason for the city’s selection. Mortenson said the NCAA had told city officials as recently as 2009 that the Metrodome, the three-decade-old home of the Vikings, was no longer adequate for the Final Four and that the city “might as well not submit again” unless a new facility was built. The new stadium, he added, was the “darling of our victory.”
“I’m just so happy that, once again, our stadium has been able to be the catalyst for another [great] event,” said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the public body overseeing the stadium’s construction. “It’s what the Legislature and the governor planned on when they invested in this venue.”
Gov. Mark Dayton, who was both cheered and criticized for leading the drive to publicly fund the stadium, congratulated the bid committee for its “tremendous work in securing this premier event for our new stadium and our state.”
The Minneapolis committee said that the Final Four’s financial impact on the Twin Cities could be anywhere from $70 million to $200 million, though such projections have proved elusive to measure. July’s All-Star Game — which boosters claimed would mean $75 million in economic benefit — may have yielded a smaller benefit ranging from $21 million to $55 million, according to the latest estimates.
After Minneapolis was selected Friday, local officials said that the Final Four “brings a large economic impact to the host community,” and added that Dallas officials projected that last year’s tournament provided a $275 million boost.
There were other winners — and losers — Friday, as the NCAA announced that the 2017 tournament would be held in Phoenix, the 2018 event would take place in San Antonio, the 2020 Final Four would be in Atlanta and the 2021 event would go to Indianapolis. Three finalists, Dallas, New Orleans and St. Louis received no bid.
Bid committee officials said the event’s costs would be paid privately, and Mortenson said a “Sweet 16” group of local companies — including Mortenson Construction — would help with financing. He declined to name the other corporations. Addressing an issue that has led to criticism involving other signature sporting events, Kelm-Helgen also said that details of the committee’s Final Four bid may not be made public.
Though other details were also vague, Mary Brainerd, president of HealthPartners, and the bid committee’s co-chair with Mortenson, said that there would probably be an outdoor concert near the Mall of America as part of the Final Four weekend. Bid committee officials added that the 65,400-seat stadium would be expanded to at least 72,000 seats for the Final Four, and that fans in the stadium could watch 2,400 high-definition screens so they “will never miss a moment of the action.”
“Minneapolis will provide a world-class showcase for one of the greatest sporting events in America,” said Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.
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Four teams and three games will be played in Minneapolis in April 2019
The economic boost
How much will it bring in? Estimates from $70 million to $200 million.
The other big ones
Ryder Cup golf hits Chaska in 2016, and the Super Bowl comes in 2018.