The NCAA women’s basketball tournament will return to Chattanooga in 2009.
McKenzie Arena has been approved by the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee as one of eight additional sites for first- and second-round games. The sites were added after the women’s committee announced last summer that the tournament would be expanding back to 16 predetermined sites beginning next year.
“We’re very pleasantly surprised,” said Merrill Eckstein, president of the Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee. “We’ve had good success with the women’s basketball tournament with the first and second rounds in ’04 and the regional that was so successful here in ’05, but there were some concerns on our part particularly in relation to amenities like locker rooms. The university is working on that subject, and we promised in our bid package that we would be improving situations like that.
“Most everything else was successful here the last go-around, and I guess the NCAA is willing to put faith in us again.”
The NCAA women’s tournament went from 16 to eight early sites in 2005, a year after the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga upset Rutgers at McKenzie before falling to Vanderbilt in the second round. Should the Lady Mocs qualify for next season’s tournament, they automatically would be among McKenzie’s four teams.
The city tried to land one of eight first- and second-round sites for last year’s tournament. Eckstein said NCAA officials cited a lack of hotel space and locker rooms for eight teams as chief reasons for the rejection.
The NCAA sent out supplemental bids last summer for the 2009-2010 tournaments once the move was made back to 16 sites. Only one city, Seattle, was rewarded with first- and second-round games each of the next two years.
“The committee was pleased with the amount of interest generated when we announced that we were going to 16 predetermined sites,” said NCAA women’s tournament chair Judy Southard. “To be able to get a good blend of cities that have past hosting experience in combination with a number of new cities and venues is good for the continued growth of the game.”
Next year’s NCAA tournament games at McKenzie will occur roughly two weeks after the arena hosts the Southern Conference men’s and women’s tournaments. The SoCon will stage its 2010 tournaments at McKenzie as well.
Chattanooga hosted the Southeastern Conference women’s basketball tournament seven times from 1993-2000.
“Women’s basketball has had a remarkable place in this community over the years,” Eckstein said. “It’s one more feather in our cap in regard to that specific sport.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...