COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The NCAA Women’s Final Four begins Friday in Columbus, but prep work for the tournament began more than a year ago.
The final touches were being made Sunday and Monday at Nationwide Arena, which is now decorated with purple banners and decals. Signs outside the arena read Final Four Way instead of Nationwide Boulevard.
Fans are excited to see some basketball and all agree on one thing this is huge for Columbus.
“It’s nice to have big events that puts Columbus on the national map,” said one person passing by the arena on Monday afternoon.
“Show the world what Columbus is all about and how we’re such a great city,” another commented.
“Columbus is growing, it’s a great place to live, and having these things here it’s a really cool experience,” added a third person.
More than 80,000 people will be in Columbus this week, along with more than 900 volunteers.
Laura Brown is the Marketing Coordinator for the Columbus Sports Commission, and says the event will boost the economy.
“The women’s Final Four is one of the biggest sporting events we’ve ever brought to the city,” she said. “It’s going to bring in more than $20 million in direct visitor spending. All this week the city’s going to be glowing purple from down here, to the Short North arches to the Leveque Tower, and some other nice touches as well.”
Mike Gatto, the General Manager of Nationwide Arena, says it’s taken two years of meetings to get this all ready.
“Today we’re prepping the building for the games on Friday and Sunday,” he said.”It’s going to be a great week, really exciting to welcome people from all over the country.”
Organizers tell NBC4’s Elyse Chengery it is great for visitors to see our city, but that a successful Final Four will help Columbus host other big events in the future.
Mayor Andrew Ginther, “We’ve got the great community, we’ve got, you know, ‘the Columbus way,'” said Mayor Andrew Ginther. “Public and private work better here than anywhere else in the country, and that’s exactly what we did to land the Final Four and why we’re going to make this one of the best Final Four experiences in NCAA they’ve ever had.”
Former Ohio State standout Katie Smith said she is thrilled to stand on the Final Four court.
“I get to show off like show and tell!” she said. “You know, people get to come to your city, the community and the energy this is about to have at this event is going to be very special and something I really am happy to show off!”
Rachel Kay with the NCAA has traveled for the past 5 years to the women’s Final Four. She’s in charge of overseeing all the details that go into the building.
“So from the floor going down to where decor is going to go, we help instruct everything that’s going to happen in the building.
“We’re on a really big upswing for momentum of ticket sales last year was the sellout it was a huge success for us and the fact that Columbus sold out even earlier this year has been tremendous for us and were excited to show that off,” Kay added.
The city will be packed, and Mayor Ginther said he is looking forward to watching the games with his family along with the rest of the country.
“Bringing my family to the game and having my daughter look out on the court and know she’s getting to witness history, the best basketball players in the country fighting it out on this floor for a national championship is pretty exciting,” he said.