After coaches for Baylor and Notre Dame took the dais at Amalie Arena to address the media ahead of Sunday’s NCAA women’s basketball national championship, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis followed to discuss the impact of such an event on the Tampa Bay community.
Prior to his appearance, DeSantis met with NCAA officials who gave him an update on events from the Final Four weekend, the third such time Tampa has hosted the NCAA women’s semifinal and championship game.
“I think you’ve heard that Tampa is one of two that has hosted it this many times,” DeSantis said. “I was asking, ‘When’s the next time we can get in the hopper for it?' I think it’s going to be sometime in the middle of next decade.
“I’m not going to speak for the folks in Tampa, but I think that that’s going to be something they’re going to pursue.”
The Women’s Final Four brings with it more than just basketball. In addition to the influx of athletes and fans, the NCAA also takes on community projects like Read to the Final Four, a literacy challenge the NCAA and Tampa Bay Sports Commission began with Hillsborough County elementary schools in the days preceding the tournament.
On Saturday night, the Final Four will also host a free concert in Curtis Hixon Park, at which musician Gavin DeGraw will perform.
“What the community has to offer and how it has embraced the Women’s Final Four being here, along the with state of Florida embracing other NCAA championships, we just want to extend our gratitude and appreciation for that,” said NCAA vice president of women’s basketball Lynn Holzman, who flanked DeSantis on the dais. “Tampa, the partnership we’ve had, has raised the bar for future championships.”
DeSantis said he expects the economic impact of the weekend to be nearly $25 million. And the success of the events, he added, only makes it seem more likely that Tampa Bay could play host to others like it in the future.
“We’ve got a lot of marquee events throughout our state coming up. We’ve got the two Super Bowls coming up, we’ve got the NCAA college football. We just had all these golf tournaments. We had a great spring training,” he said. “If you like marquee sporting events, Florida’s a great place to be.”
DeSantis is no stranger to Tampa Bay sports.
When he was 12 years old, DeSantis was a member of the Dunedin Nationals team that competed in the 1991 Little League World Series. The Governor went on to play baseball at Dunedin High School and Yale University.