NCAA Championships: It Takes a Village

March 10, 2014 by Laurie Bollig

In early spring of 1988, I was sitting in the upper balcony of Kemper Arena in Kansas City. As luck would have it, my first employer – the University of Kansas – was playing in the NCAA national championship basketball game that night. And I was there. It was basketball nirvana for me.

While the Final Four is a much sought after championship to host, it is only one of 89 championships run by the NCAA. The association strives to make the student-athlete experience a memorable one across all divisions. But it won’t work without the support of the local communities in which the championships are played.

As a member of the NCAA staff for nine years, I got to see some of what makes March Madness and other championship events so special. To bid for an NCAA championship a city needs hotels, parking, a great facility and a transportation system. But more than anything you need good people, because it takes a village to run an NCAA championship.

When the Kansas City metro was awarded 14 NCAA preliminary-round and championship events recently, it was a giant pat on the back that spanned State Line Road. (Kansas City, Sporting Park, win with NCAA championship selections) After all, it took the entire metropolitan area’s collective sports savvy to put together bids for soccer, football, volleyball, track and cross country championships. It took sports organizations and corporate leaders from two states to commingle their resources with expertise and attention to detail.

Kathy Nelson and her staff at the Kansas City Sports Commission played point guard on this impressive and successful bidding team. The sports commission tapped the wisdom of those who served on the first local organizing committees for the old Big Eight Conference, reinforced Divisions I, II and III conference and school affiliations, cemented relationships with owners of the one of the best sports facilities in the nation – Sporting Park – and partnered with businesses for guarantees of financial assistance and a volunteer corps.

Nelson and her staff were confident that Kansas City would support NCAA championships other than the Final Four.

This city is crazy for its sports. When viewership in Kansas City beats out three other cities with vested interests in the most recent Super Bowl (Kansas City market led the country in Super Bowl TV ratings), you know a town loves its sports. Kansas City is consistently among the top markets in viewership for college sports as well.

Now, with 14 NCAA events beginning in December and running through 2017, it is time for the city to once again come together to host championships nirvana.

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