Minnesota is establishing a national reputation for excellence in hosting large-scale events. Next up is the NCAA Final Four, coming April 5-8. The Local Organizing Committee and many local partners are preparing for an estimated 92,000 out-of-town visitors and $142 million in expected positive economic impact, as reported by Rockport Analytics.
As leaders of business organizations representing thousands of companies, which in turn employ tens of thousands of Minnesotans, we embrace events like the Final Four. Hosting many of these events is made possible by the investments our community has made in U.S. Bank Stadium, Target Center and Target Field. Along with our cultural, arts, recreational and hospitality venues, modernized sports facilities are integral to creating the thriving, competitive economy we all enjoy.
A recent headline about the cost of hosting the Final Four served to again inflame passions over the public share of the cost of these facilities. But let’s always keep in mind the benefits that have come as a result.
In terms of bidding for and winning national and global sports events, we are on a roll. Super Bowl LII is the most recent in a run of Minnesota-hosted large events that include MLB’s All- Star Game (2014), the Ryder Cup (2016) and ESPN X-Games (2017-19).
There’s more: a repeat Ryder Cup was recently awarded for 2028. And with a trusted University of Minnesota relationship in executing championship events, the NCAA just hosted its women’s volleyball championship here and named Minnesota to host men’s and women’s Frozen Fours, men’s wrestling championships, a men’s basketball regional tournament and the women’s basketball Final Four in the anniversary year of Title IX.
Minnesota’s star-turn is becoming a transformational new normal, and there are good reasons to continue drawing large-scale events to Minnesota. Large-scale events put our region and state in the national and international spotlight, creating jobs and bringing economic benefits from visitor spending.
As one example, the hospitality industry is a major employer but can wane during off-weather months. Events like the Final Four help to smooth out the seasonality of our tourism industry and keep Minnesotans working.
Hosting large events also provides an opportunity to share what is unique about Minnesota; our dynamic cities, natural beauty, diverse industries and, especially, our people. Recently, over 2,000 volunteers signed on to provide a great experience for Final Four visitors, filling the Local Organizing Committee’s volunteer program in under four hours. The interactions that visitors from across the nation and globe will have with Minnesotans when here will create huge reputational gains for our state.
The NCAA Final Four, as with other recent events, includes family-friendly opportunities for everyone to participate. Final Four weekend will tip off with entirely free public access into U.S. Bank Stadium for an all-star game featuring the best collegiate junior and senior basketball student-athletes as well as a Final Four team shoot-around. On that day, spectators don’t need a ticket to enter the stadium, and can sit anywhere in the house. In fact, local inclusion and participation are important indicators of the success of these major events.
Intentionally extending benefits of high-profile events across Minnesota is always a priority for organizers, including small-business inclusion and supply-chain initiatives, educational programs, special philanthropic endeavors and showcasing uniquely Minnesotan products or ideas. When events have larger, shared goals, Minnesotans gain a sense that continuing to draw national and global events to our region is a beneficial activity, one that engages and connects. When host committees reach across the state with planned and intentional programs to positively impact communities, we experience a unified sense of purpose and a collective pride that is about more than any game, concert or festival. It becomes about “us”: our region and all of Minnesota.
The free and low-cost events planned for Final Four weekend in and around downtown Minneapolis, such as a free stadium-entrance day on April 5, ensure that everyone’s “in the game” and part of this unique experience.
Developing a large-scale event is an immense undertaking. It involves public and private partners and thousands of volunteers. Doing it well is as much a civic endeavor as a feat of detailed logistical planning. Minnesota business and community leaders who volunteer their time and contribute financial resources to hosting large events view assuring benefits from large events for all Minnesotans as an imperative. This is how we do things in The North. And with hosting national and global events becoming more of a tradition than a trend, that’s a good thing.
Steve Cramer is president and CEO, Minneapolis Downtown Council. Jonathan Weinhagen is president and CEO, Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. Kevin Lewis is executive director, Building Owners and Managers Association Greater Minneapolis.