Tomorrow, the committee attempting to bring the NCAA Women’s Final Four to Nashville holds its first organizational meeting in its drive make a bid on the annual basketball tournament.
Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors and attorney Margaret Behm are the committee co-chairs, and they have invited a bevy of business and civic leaders to work toward winning one of the five years from 2012 to 2016.
The NCCA is looking for a lot from cities in the specifications, including sales and hotel tax rebates, entertainment and transportation.
For Nashville, the bid would include space in a convention center not yet built.
For the new owners of the Nashville Predators, they will get their first major taste of trying to attract a major sporting event to the Sommet Center affiliate Powers Management manages.
“It’s certainly a demanding bid financially and logistically,” said Scott Ramsey, president and chief executive office of the Nashville Sports Council.
On the fast track?
The big question to be debated is whether the women’s tournament would be good for the city or a drain that isn’t worth the effort. Nashville has to put itself on the fast track because plenty of the aspects of a bid have to be figured quickly to have the bid in by June 2.
Music City is competing against 12 other cities: Denver, Phoenix, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Indianapolis, Cleveland, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Tampa and Columbus, Ohio.
Ramsey said Columbus and Nashville are the only two in the group making their first bids on the tournament.
The NCAA will cut the list down in late June, make site visits in the fall and select five winners in November. But Ramsey said Nashville has the positives that make the city competitive.
It’s a new market that is well located geographically, he said. He also said downtown is set up perfectly for the tournament, which runs from Sunday to Tuesday.
“They will dominate our downtown rather than just be another event,” he said.
Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, said a consideration is what value the tournament.
“It’s a good event but not near the return as the Men’s,” Spyridon said referring to the NCAA Men’s Final Four. “I’m not saying don’t do it. It requires a tighter look.”
He pointed out that he counterpart in Phoenix is bidding on the women’s and men’s tournament, with the women’s being a loss leader.
Also, the month of April is a good month for the convention and visitors business, running about 65% occupancy with a good hotel rate, Spyridon said.
“You’ve got to play all that out,” he added.
Ramsey knows the bid will be a challenge.
“There are a lot of hurdles you have to get over the first time you do it,” he said. “We’re thinking we have to raise $2 million to run it.”
He said being the new kid on the block would make for a difficult sale to the NCAA.
“It will really be a challenge for us to sell it to the community as well,” Ramsey said.
For starters, the NCAA doesn’t want to pay anything more on hotel rooms than a favorable rate for the teams and the league staff.
There is no such deal for the hotel rooms fans take or the rooms taken up with a convention that comes along with the tournament. Ramsey said it’s up to the city to determine how it wants to bid the taxes on that.
Part of the convincing the NCAA includes telling the leadership that a new convention center indeed will be ready.
Meanwhile, the new Predators owners through Powers Management will be in the mix.
“Those events we know are huge for the city,” said Ed Lang, the team’s president of business operations.
But it’s not something that would help it in near term. The new lease, if passed by Metro Council, has incentives for bringing more events into the arena.
Lang said the arena didn’t chase events if there was a risk the city would lose money on the deal. The risk is of losses on the new ownership with the new lease.
“We need to drive more business now,” Lang said. “I think what you’ll see is us take on more risk than in the past.”