The Women's Final Four, which played to sellout crowds at the St. Pete Times Forum in April, will be back in town in seven years, as the NCAA announced Friday that the marquee event will return to Tampa in 2015.
The NCAA announced the host cities for 2012-16, with Denver, New Orleans, Nashville, Tampa and Indianapolis, in that order of hosting, chosen from a group of eight finalists. USF will be the host school, as the Bulls were for this year's event, which saw Tennessee beat Stanford to repeat as national champion.
"The city has proven to be a terrific host. … We were very impressed" by this year's event, said Jacki Silar, chairwoman of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee and associate athletic director at Duke. "Tampa has an outstanding history of hosting major sports events."
Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, said organizers specifically targeted the 2015 event, which falls on Easter weekend, traditionally a slow economic weekend for tourism revenues.
"It's a phenomenal event, and to be able to host it a second time is truly amazing," Higgins said. "This announcement validates a lot of what was accomplished here in 2008."
Cities not selected were Dallas, San Antonio, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio.
"The women's basketball committee invested a tremendous amount of time and effort in the Women's Final Four site selection process," Silar said in a statement. "It was a very difficult and important decision and it was the committee's charge to determine which of the cities would best serve as future host sites for the pinnacle of women's basketball — the Women's Final Four."
An NCAA study released in August found that this year's Women's Final Four made a direct economic impact of $19.1-million on the Tampa area. The study found the event drew 22,595, with the average visitor staying 4.2 days and spending an average of $208 per day.
Tampa is hosting this year's ACC football championship on Dec. 6, the Super Bowl in February and the SEC men's basketball tournament in March. The St. Pete Times Forum hosted the ACC men's basketball tournament in 2007 and the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament and the Women's Final Four this past spring. Future events include the 2009 NCAA volleyball championships and the 2012 NCAA hockey Frozen Four.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3346.