Though it's football season now, collegiate basketball leaders are planning ahead for the Women's Final Four. They'll arrive in Columbus on Tuesday for a 24-hour visit, to scout the city as a possible site for one set of games from 2017 through 2020.
More than just three basketball games are involved.
Bruce Wimbish, of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, said that if Columbus is selected, it means thousands of hotel rooms rented, tens of thousands of meals eaten, millions of dollars for the city, and valuable national exposure.
"It will be 18 to 20 million dollars in visitor spending. It is the largest collegiate athletic women's championship the NCAA has, and the largest one we can get for Columbus," he explained.
Wimbish said that that in addition to courts where the games will be played, the event also requires 90,000 square feet of space for a convention of women's basketball coaches, and locations for teams to practice. That's why the visitors want to examine the Columbus Convention Center.
"So while the games are in Nationwide Arena, the practices are there. There'll be a lot of activity in the convention center, so they want to see that. They then want to see the hotels we'll be using. Columbus has great walkability, compression, convenience. I love to say you can park your car on Thursday, and not have to come back to it until Sunday. So they want to see that," he said.
He said the scouts plan a bus tour as well, to examine nearby neighborhoods, and will walk around the area to see how easy it is to get from the arena and convention center to hotels and restaurants.
Columbus has made the first cut of cities, from twelve to seven. Now four host cities will be chosen, and he thinks Columbus has a good chance to be one of them.
If so, he said, it could lead to Columbus being chosen for more large national sports events.
"The Women's Final Four is the NCAA's marquee women's sporting event for America. And it will be a destination-defining moment for Columbus," Wimbish said.