Attendance increases for DI tourney
Buoyed by larger crowds for both semifinal and final games, attendance for the regional rounds of this year’s NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship increased 65 percent from last year.
Overall, 68,021 fans attended regional games, up from 41,432 last year. Regional final crowds grew from 17,229 to 33,181, an increase of 93 percent. Regional semifinal attendance posted gains of 44 percent, from 24,203 last year to 34,840 this year.
The Spokane Regional at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena drew the largest crowds, with 10,717 fans viewing Saturday’s semifinals pitting Gonzaga vs. Louisville and Stanford vs. North Carolina. Stanford, a No. 1 seed, advanced to the Final Four with its 83-60 win against No. 11 seed Gonzaga in front of 11,646 fans in Monday’s regional final.
“We had great matchups,” said Sue Donohoe, NCAA vice president of Division I women’s basketball. “The increased attendance at our first- and second-round sites created excitement and momentum that carried through the regional rounds.”
The combination of the NCAA’s bracketing principles and use of pre-selected sites allowed some teams to play closer to home, resulting in a better in-venue experience during the preliminary rounds.
“Throughout the preliminary rounds, our student-athletes and coaches have expressed time and time again how excited they were to play in a great championship atmosphere,” Donohoe said.
Overall attendance for the first and second rounds increased from 141,460 last year to 146,787 this year, topped by 8,368 fans for first-round games and 8,436 for second-round games at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.
“The committee continues to review the championship format and our priority is to provide a great championship for our student-athletes, coaches and teams,” said Marilyn McNeil, chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and vice president/director of athletics. “I believe the game is growing and audiences are finding out that this is something special. The attendance growth is fantastic news.”
The NCAA Division I Women’s Final Four will be played April 3 and 5 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Sunday’s national semifinals feature Stanford (33-2) vs. No. 2 seed Texas A&M (31-5) at 7 p.m. ET, followed by No. 1 overall seed Connecticut (36-1) vs. No. 2 seed Notre Dame (30-7). Winners play in the championship game at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.