Minneapolis will no longer host the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball Midwest Regional after an announcement Monday that the entire NCAA tournament likely will be held in Indianapolis this season.
Fearing that March Madness would again get canceled because of the pandemic, like last March, the Division I men’s basketball committee opted for a new plan. A single-city tournament, instead of one with separate locations for 13 preliminary rounds, would greatly diminish travel across the country for the 68-team field.
The 2021 Final Four was already set for April 3-5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“We’ve had initial discussions with the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis to see if it’s feasible to run the entirety of the championship in the Indianapolis metropolitan area,” NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said Monday. “We have a really good working relationship and good support from the Hoosiers’ state. We think that may be our best option.”
Minneapolis was the last site of the Big Dance, after successfully hosting the 2019 Final Four that crowned Virginia national champions at U.S. Bank Stadium two seasons ago.
With the NCAA Midwest Regional for March 25-27 at Target Center canceled, Minneapolis is currently not scheduled to have another NCAA men’s hoops tournament event.
A chance at the Twin Cities landing a bid for the 2024 men’s basketball first and second rounds at Target Center was unsuccessful last month. But the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four is coming to the Target Center.
“We’re certainly disappointed that we won’t be hosting that Midwest regional,” said Melvin Tennant, the CEO of Meet Minneapolis and executive board member for Minnesota Sports and Events. “But we understand that the safety and health of the student-athletes are first and foremost.
“We certainly applaud the NCAA for establishing that as a priority. We know that there have been a number of adjustments to events due to the pandemic and other issues, so I can’t say it was a huge surprise. I look to the future — and we still have a strong relationship with the NCAA.”
Tennant said event organizers are still proud to be hosting NCAA championship events in Minnesota for five straight years, starting with the 2021 Men’s Gymnastics Championships at the University of Minnesota’s Maturi Pavilion. That stretch also includes the 2023 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Division Championships, the 2023 and 2025 Women’s Frozen Four and the 2024 Men’s Frozen Four.
More than 144,000 people combined reportedly attended the NCAA Basketball Men’s Final Four and title game in Minneapolis in April 2019, proving to be a good fit for the game’s biggest spectacle.
Future NCAA events coming to the Twin Cities will be headed by the efforts of Minnesota Sports and Events. The nonprofit private group’s CEO and president is Wendy Blackshaw, the senior VP of marketing and sales for Super Bowl LII in 2018.
Blackshaw, who already created a local organizing committee for the 2022 women’s basketball Final Four, says her group won’t give up on bringing the NCAA men’s basketball tournament back to Minnesota.
“One of the successful sporting events that accelerated our region’s reputation as a top tier host of mega events was the 2019 Men’s Final Four,” she said. “We will definitely be bidding on this again.
“ … Procuring these championships is even more important as we look to a future when vaccines become available, sporting events start to open up, fans start to travel.
“Our Minnesota hospitality industry has been impacted significantly and we need fans flying into the MSP Airport, staying in our hotels throughout our region; we need tourists eating in our restaurants and shopping in our stores. We need these events to attract the hundreds of thousands of people that will generate economic impact for our state.”