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'Downtown Will Be Coming Back In Fine Form': In 40 Days, Minneapolis Hosts Women's Final Four

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- In 40 days, the best women's college basketball players in the country will play for a championship in downtown Minneapolis. Target Center hosts the Final Four in April.

Organizers held a news conference Tuesday alongside city leaders, giving a preview of what the big event means for the community.

The Women's Final Four was last in Minnesota in 1995. The Super Bowl came in 2018. The Men's Final Four was in 2019.

This time around, circumstances of the pandemic present a very different place.

"The NCAA Women's Final Four is coming back in the same time as our city and our downtown will be coming back in fine form. So this helps to give us that shot in the arm that we need," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said. "It comes just as a bunch of restaurants are opening all across our city. It comes as these mandates that we've had are all getting lifted."

Basketball player Rachel Banham said that this event brings the opportunity to cast Minneapolis in a whole new light after making national headlines over the last few years.

"Hopefully this brings joy to the city and people can kind of come together," Banham said. "This is a place to bring everybody together. All different types of people, different backgrounds."

It was a two-year process for the NCAA to bring the Final Four to Minnesota, which they say will be in greater alignment with the men's tournament than ever before.

"There's particularly some opportunities they'll experience here for the first time at this final four as a result of those enhancements," Lynn Holzman, Vice President for NCAA Women's Basketball, said.

Last year's Women's NCAA tournament faced wide criticism for the imbalanced level of experience for the female athletes. Among the changes made this year, a 68-team tournament instead of 64.

"The issues that were exposed, I think it really also exposed is a lot of things that many of us in sport having been fighting for women and opportunities for many years," Banham said.

As part of the Final Four, the NCAA will partner to build an outdoor basketball court at Hall STEM Academy in Minneapolis.

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