Columbus hosts its largest collegiate championship ever this weekend, as the NCAA Women’s Final Four brings thousands of visitors and a likely $20 million economic boost to the city.
The games get underway Friday night at Nationwide Arena, as Louisville plays Mississippi State followed by Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut in the semifinals.
"We’re very excited for our fans, the people who live in Columbus and those who are traveling to Columbus to see what we are all about," says Diana Sabau, a member of the NCAA Women's Final Four local organizing committee.
Sabau says organizers are ready for the more than 80,000 visitors expected to attend the four-day event.
“We are sold out right now for tickets for our two semifinal games on Friday and our championship game on Sunday," Sabau says. "So that means 19,804 fans will come through Nationwide’s doors for each game.”
Sabau, who works in the Ohio State Athletic Department, says there is some disappointment that Ohio State did not reach the end.
“I think it would have been magical if Ohio State could have been a part of a host city for the Women’s Final Four,” Sabau says. “But we’re pleased with our season. They had a remarkable season and we’re just real excited to welcome four teams to Columbus.”
In addition to the games, visitors can attend a Fan Fest in the Columbus Convention Center, with activities including former NCAA women basketball players signing autographs.
The city's success with the four-day event could lead to more sporting events. Sabau says organizers hope to land the Sweet 16 portion of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in the future.
Other sporting events Columbus wants to pursue include the NCAA wrestling championship, figure skating and the U.S. Olympic trials for wrestling.