|Sommet Center Riding Success |
Sommet Center is in the midst of one of its most successful weeks, hosting the CMA Awards Show on Wednesday night and then today being informed that the building was selected to host the 2014 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Final Four.
"It’s good to show off the building and the city to everybody in the country, so it’s a huge honor to get that opportunity," said Hugh Lombardi, Senior Vice President/General Manager for Sommet Center.
"I think from the building perspective, we’ve had a lot of success with NCAA Men's First & Second Round Tournaments and the Women’s SEC Tournament. We just had the highest grossing SEC Tournament for Women’s this past year. And the state of Tennessee has some of the best Women’s programs in the country, so we have that going for us. The building obviously is very nice and the campus that is surrounded by it; the new convention center, the hotels, everything’s within walking distance – Broadway and Second Avenue – and the airport is only seven miles away. The campus feel is really strong."
The collective effort of the entire Nashville community and the marketing plan followed by the Music City committee was key to securing the Final Four for Nashville.
"We had a marketing committee that just did a tremendous job," Lombardi said. "A lot of people were involved. A lot of big-time business people in the city came together on this; it was pretty impressive. I think it really blew the selection committee away how effective it was. We had the committee in here for a visit -- a cocktail party at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, walked them to the Country Music Hall of Fame for dinner and Vince (Gill) & Amy (Grant) were there and performed a few songs and talked to them. That was a huge hit. Then the (NCAA selection) committee toured Broadway at night. The next day they toured all the facilities, including our building. I think the presentation really helped."
The arena itself was a huge factor into the selection committee's decision. Sommet Center is one of the smallest venues awarded an NCAA Final Four, which is a tremendous testament to job Lombardi and his staff have done in managing other elite level events. And those within the industry have been taking note. Just this week the building was honored with Facilities Magazine's 2008 Prime Site award, to go along with the 2008 IEBA Venue of the Year Award annouced earlier this summer.
"We’re just one part of it – the hotels, the convention center, the sports council, the city itself – so there are quite a few committees. I think our rehearsal hall is one of the things that’s different from any other building in the country. That can be set up as an independent media area – and it’s just across the street from the new convention center site location. It’s got security, it’s got room for all the media, we can do all the interviews in there. That’s one of the things that separated us from the other bids."
Big time events like the Women's Final Four will lead to more high profile events at Sommet Center, "I would hope so. We can’t do the Men’s Final Four; we’re too small, unfortunately. I think we’ll continue to do NCAA Tournaments, continue to do SEC Championships. It definitely helps (in trying to bring future events). It gives us even more credibility than we already have."
In conjunction with the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Final Four, Nashville will also host the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) National Convention.The WBCA is the national association ofapproximately 5,000 basketball coaches representing all levels of the game, including junior high,AAU, high school, college and professional.
Nashville was one of five cities awarded the Division I Women's Basketball Final Four between the years of 2012 and 2016. Other cities selected to host the Final Four during that time period include (with arena and host institution):
2012: Denver, Pepsi Center, Mountain West Conference.
2013: New Orleans, New Orleans Arena, University of New Orleans
2014: Nashville, Sommet Center, Ohio Valley Conference.
2015: Tampa Bay, St. Pete Times Forum, University of South Florida
2016: Indianapolis, Lucas Oil Stadium, Butler University/IUPUI/Horizon League
The process to secure the Division I Women's Final Four began in January with an initial meeting of the Music City Bid Committee, co-chaired by Vice-Mayor Diane Neighbors and Margaret Behm. The OVC and Nashville Sports Council submitted an official bid to the NCAA in June and were announced as one of the eight finalists in August. The NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee and NCAA staff made a two-day visit to Nashville in mid-October and Nashville's local bid committee made a final presentation to the NCAA in Indianapolis on Nov. 12. Music City Bid Leadership Quotes:
"This is great news for Nashville", said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. "I applaud the Sports Council, the Ohio Valley Conference and the bid committee for all the work they put into making this happen, specifically Vice-Mayor Diane Neighbors and Margaret Behm. This news speaks to what a great destination Nashville is for large events and their participants, and it helps validate the need for a new, much larger convention center downtown. This event is
only possible because by 2014 the Music City Center will be open and fully operational. I look forward to Nashville hosting this event and to showing the Women's Final Four participants all that Music City has to offer."
"This is a great day for Music City," said Nashville Vice-Mayor and Music City Bid Committee Co-Chair Diane Neighbors. "The Nashville team worked very hard and produced a fantastic proposal. Over the next six years we will be putting together a Final Four that players, coaches, and fans won't forget. Congratulations Nashville!"
"The community wide support we have received throughout the bid process has been phenomenal," said Music City Bid Committee Co-Chair Margaret Behm. "That broad ranging support coupled withMiddle Tennessee'slong tradition of celebrating women's basketball makes Nashville the perfect host site for the 2014 Women's Final Four."
"We dreamed it and we did it," said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference. "This is the result of a lot of people and organizations pulling together and working to develop a strong bid. The leadership of our co-chairs, Margaret Behm and Diane Neighbors, along with the strong bid team that was developed was instrumental in the success of this effort. I must also single out the Nashville Sports Council. Their expertise and experience in managing events played a critical role in our bid efforts."
"We are pleased that the NCAA has awarded the 2014 Women's Final Four to Nashville," said Nashville Sports Council President & CEO Scott Ramsey. "This event is one of the most high
profile annual events on the national sports calendar and will bring tremendous national exposure, prestige and economic impact to our community. We look forward to beginning the planning and preparation to host an unforgettable experience for the student-athletes, fans and everyone associated with the Women's Final Four."
The Ohio Valley Conference, whichis the nation's eighth oldest Division I athletic conference, is in its 61st year of competition in 2008-09. The OVC is comprised of 11 schools that represent five states. Member institutions include Austin Peay State University, Eastern Illinois University, Eastern Kentucky University, Jacksonville State University, Morehead State University, Murray State University,Southeast Missouri State University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University
and the University of Tennessee at Martin. For more information call 615.371.1698 or visit OVCSports.com.
The Nashville Sports Council is a private, non-profit, membership-based organization of area corporations and individual sports enthusiasts. Created in 1992, the Nashville Sports Council's mission is to positively impact the economy and quality of life of the Greater Nashville Area by attracting and promoting professional and amateur sporting events. The Nashville Sports Council has hosted more than 120 events that have produced over $340 million in direct economic impact and is The Driving Force of Sports in Nashville. For more information, call 615.743.3120 or visit NashvilleSports.com.