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Rockford to host Division 1 women’s basketball tournament in spring

The site is one of four regional locations selected, the tournament will start on March 19.
Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 4:13 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The city of Rockford will host Division 1 basketball in the spring thanks to the 2021 postseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament coming to the UW Health Sports Factory, officials said in an announcement Thursday.

The site is one of four regional locations selected, the tournament will start on March 19. Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara says the community has faced challenges like never before, especially in the hospitality and tourism industry.

“The Rockford region is notorious for being a sports tourism destination,” McNamara said. “We’re ready to welcome visitors back to our wonderful community.”

“We expect about $400,000 in economic impact from this tournament again spending in hotels, restaurants, gas stations shops and on,” RACVB President and CEO John Groh said.

McNamara gave kudos to the Rockford Park District and the RACVB for making the partnership come to fruition. Winnebago County Chairperson Joe Chiarelli welcomed Triple Crown Sports, the organization that puts on the WNIT to the Rockford region.

“I am not tall enough to play basketball but hopefully I can see some great basketball,” Chiarelli said.

Danielle Potter from the Rockford Park District said young athletes in Rockford will have a sense of pride playing here after seeing the tournament with their own eyes.

“I love women’s athletics I was a player myself so I’m like a kid in the candy store I’m looking forward to it I’m going to be here every day so it’s exciting for us,” Potter said.

Some young athletes are already excited to see the tournament at a place they frequently play.

“If I’m going to play basketball in college it just gives me inspiration,” Youth basketball player Josilyn Augustin said.

“It makes me feel motivated because I know they didn’t give up on the first day when they didn’t make their shots,” Youth basketball player Isabelle Nelson said.

Sarah Molina from Triple Crown Sports says she already feels like a part of “the Rockford family.” Triple Crown Sports hosts more than 200 sporting events yearly, and Groh believes there could be potential for future partnerships.

“Being able to host a D1 women’s basketball postseason event opens up to other opportunities,” Groh said.

During a competitive bid process, RACVB worked closely with the Rockford Park District, BMO Harris Bank Center, Embassy Suites by Hilton Rockford Riverfront, Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, Northern Illinois University Huskies Athletics and the Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) to present a comprehensive and creative championship solution.

“The community of Rockford and their Convention and Visitors Bureau staff immediately stood out to us through the process of selecting our WNIT sites,” Renee Carlson, executive director of the WNIT said. “The partnership within the community and their pursuit to bring women’s college basketball games to their area sold us.”

Rockford is joined by Fort Worth, TX, Charlotte, NC, and Memphis, TN as this year’s regional host destinations. The field of teams for the 2021 Postseason WNIT will be announced the evening of March 15, after the brackets for the NCAA Tournament are released.

Round 1 WNIT play begins March 19, followed by Round 2 on March 20 and Round 3 on March 22. Teams that lose in Round 1 will move to the consolation bracket, with games also being played on March 20 and 22. All game times are to be determined. The four regional champions will advance to one site (location to be announced) for the semifinals and championship game.

“This year we will have 32 teams at four regional sites,” Molina said.

Molina says Rockford makes sense geographically for many teams who may play in the Women’s NIT tournament.

All games will be streamed through FloSports, with details to be announced soon. For more information about the 2021 Postseason WNIT, visit www.womensnit.com and follow @WomensNIT on Twitter.

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