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March Madness rolls into downtown Minneapolis this week for a history-making NCAA women's basketball Final Four.

On Sunday night, one of the four remaining teams will raise the championship trophy under a cascade of confetti. But the significance of this year's tournament extends beyond the result of the action on the hardcourt.

For fans, it's a return to a multiday, in-person event after two years of COVID-19 cancellations and spectator bans.

For the league, it's the first time they're extending to the women's side the "March Madness" moniker long associated with the wildly popular men's tournament. The branding shift grew from a reinvigorated push for gender parity after an embarrassing viral video of the women's "weight room" at the 2021 bubble tournament in San Antonio consisting of a rack of dumbbells, contrasted with the men's vast weight room.

For Minnesota, it's a moment to showcase the Twin Cities as a hospitable host and shift focus from the May 2020 murder of George Floyd and the violent unrest that followed.

"We're going to be on ESPN on Sunday night in prime time," Minnesota Sports and Events (MNSE) CEO and President Wendy Blackshaw said. "I think it's a really good time to change the narrative and show how this as a good place to live, work and play."

The tournament is the first big event for MNSE, the private nonprofit that formed in late 2020 to lure major sporting events to the Twin Cities. Blackshaw is also co-executive director of the local host committee for the Final Four.

Throughout the week, there will be events in Minneapolis and at the Mall of America in Bloomington where fans can participate and maybe catch a glimpse of NCAA stars, coaches and local celebrities.

The teams arrive on Tuesday, staying at four downtown hotels where fans are welcome. The first semifinal game tips off at 6 p.m. Friday at Target Center with the second game following. The championship tilt begins at 7 p.m. Sunday.

At 9 a.m. Friday at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Tourney Town opens to the public and runs through Sunday afternoon with games, guest appearances, giveaways, pep rallies, live music and photo opportunities. The annual Women's Basketball Coaches Association meeting begins Thursday in the same building.

At the Mall of America, MNSE is hosting a weeklong series of events that began Sunday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX with prizes, games, live music, photo opportunities and guest appearances by Michelle Young, star of "The Bachelorette."

Blackshaw emphasized that — with the exception of the three basketball games — all of the events are free.

"We want families from all over the state to come down, go to the Mall of America for an afternoon, go to Tourney Town and go to the open practice," Blackshaw said. "These are the best women's basketball players in the country."

Spectators can get into Target Center without a ticket on Saturday, when the two final teams hold open practices beginning at 1 p.m.

On championship Sunday, the red carpet will be rolled out for the players outside the arena. Fans can line up at the intersection of 7th Street and 1st Avenue S. to see the athletes enter the building about 5 p.m.

Led by Jessie Stomski Seim, general counsel for the Prairie Island Indian Community, and the Indigenous Athletics Advancement Council, organizers have created special events for American Indian youth. Seim is an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma who was a star player at Tartan High School in Oakdale and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She's bringing 200 native youth from throughout the state to the games.

"Basketball is huge in Indian country, and there's all sorts of talent that's not translating" for various reasons from socioeconomics to geography, she said.

At Friday's games, there will be a land dedication, with Native dancers and music. On Saturday at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, youth will play basketball and enjoy a Native feast.

It's been a long journey since the last women's Final Four at Target Center in 1995, when the University of Connecticut won its first national championship with Hall of Fame player Rebecca Lobo-Rushin. She'll return to Target Center as one of ESPN's lead analysts.

ESPN's coverage will look different as the network will use 40 cameras at Target Center — the same number the men get. ESPN previously used only a few for the women's games.

For the MNSE planners, they're hoping the anticipated 30,000 visitors find fun in the tournament after a rough couple of years.

The Twin Cities was set to host the NCAA men's wrestling Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium in March 2020, but that was canceled due to COVID-19. Last year, the scheduled Midwest men's basketball regional was moved from Target Center to the Indiana bubble.

Recalling how the last in-person full house for the 2019 NCAA March Madness Final Four was at U.S. Bank Stadium with some 70,000 fans, organizers are hopeful this weekend serves as a marker of the new era.

"It's almost as if Minneapolis was the last one before the pandemic and the first one since we're reopening," said Matt Meunier, senior vice president of development for MNSE.

Blackshaw and Meunier declined to talk about the cost of the event but said the money is privately raised and goes back into the community to cover security and convention center rent. They will crunch the numbers afterward, but expect an economic boost of about $25 million.

"Hopefully we'll put on a great event and show the NCAA and the country what we can do, and hopefully we won't have to wait another 30 years before it comes back," Meunier said.