The capital city’s Nationwide Arena hosted the opening weekend of Big Dance play in 2004, 2007 and 2012, and March Madness will return to the home of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015.
The Greater Columbus Sports Commission doesn't want the event to leave, and it has even added a new twist with its bid to host the regional semifinals and finals – the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 – for the years from 2016 through ’18.
The bid was submitted last week, GCSC executive director Linda Logan confirmed to BuckeyeSports.com after it was mentioned at today’s Morning Sports Report.
In fact, the bid includes requests to host either the regional round of tournament play or the second and third rounds – the first round, widely known as the play-in games, occurs each year in Dayton – during the three-year span.
If Columbus is awarded the second and third rounds, Ohio State will host as it has in the past. But if the regional round is given to Columbus for the first time, Ohio University will be the host city.
That could potentially open the door for Ohio State to play in Columbus, should it advance to the second weekend of play, because a host institution cannot have its team play at its own site. That’s one reason the 2012 team had to open its Final Four run in Pittsburgh instead of Columbus despite its high seed.
“It was an opportunity to shake things up a little bit for us and also provide the opportunity for the Buckeyes to play closer to home should they make it,” Logan said.
In the past, Columbus also did not bid to host the regional rounds because many of those bids went to massive domed stadiums that could hold much larger crowds than a typical arena. However, for a variety of reasons, domes are no longer being considered for regional rounds, further opening the door for cities like Columbus – or Cleveland, which is hosting a regional final in 2015 – to take part.
Columbus is also one of seven finalists to host the Women’s Final Four – perhaps its biggest goal over the past few years – sometime between 2017-20. Logan said that if the capital city wins that bid, it will pull out of trying to host a men’s regional final that same year because of booking overload at Nationwide Arena as the NHL season winds to a close.
An NCAA delegation will make a site visit to check out Columbus’ plans for the Women’s Final Four on Sept. 9-10, with a final decision expected in November.
Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said this morning at the MSR – the Greater Columbus Sports Commission’s annual program highlighting its efforts to bring top-flight competition to Columbus – said that he’s in favor of continuing to bring such events to the city.
Columbus will host a number of Division I postseason rounds in the coming years, including the 2016 women’s volleyball finals, the 2016 men’s gymnastics finals, the 2017 collegiate rifle finals, the 2017 men’s volleyball finals, the 2018 women’s swimming finals and the 2016 men’s lacrosse quarterfinals.
“It’s fun,” Smith said. “It’s great for our community, but it’s really special for our student-athletes. For those events our student-athletes will have an opportunity to participate in or even if they’re not participating, they at least can be able to see and be motivated and inspired by those who perform in those events. They’re great events to have, so we’re going to chase as many as we can.”