Friday, December 15, 2017
Sports

NCAA basketball tournament to return to Tampa in 2020

After a nine-year hiatus, the NCAA men's basketball tournament will return to Tampa in 2020.

Amalie Arena will host first- and second-round games on March 19 and 21, the NCAA announced Tuesday.

"We're thrilled," said Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "Our community has always stepped up and really wrapped their arms around the opportunity to host the first and second rounds. We couldn't be more excited for March of 2020."

Jacksonville was the state's only other site announced Tuesday; it will host games in 2019.

Getting March Madness back for the first time since 2011 had been one of Higgins' top priorities. He worked with Amalie Arena and USF, the host institution, to submit a bid in the fall.

The tournament is one of several upcoming big events in the area. The city will host its third women's Final Four in 2019 and the SEC men's basketball tournament in 2022.

Tuesday's announcement comes three months after Raymond James Stadium hosted the College Football Playoff national title game — an event that could return in coming years.

"I think really you're only good as your last event," Higgins said. "Naturally the feedback we got from the College Football Playoff national championship and how we as a community performed on that stage hopefully sets the table for us for future opportunities and future announcements like the one (Tuesday)."

The NCAA also awarded Tampa Bay six Division II events:

. 2020 and 2021 men's and women's cross country regionals (Saint Leo's Abbey Course).

. 2020 and 2021 men's and women's soccer championships (University of Tampa's Pepin Stadium).

. 2021 women's volleyball championships (UT's Bob Martinez Athletics Center).

. 2021 men's and women's cross country championships (Abbey Course).

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