APR. 30, 2018 - VOL. 54 No. 7

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Sports fans flocked to Sioux Falls in March

By Tim Evans
Sioux Falls Sports Authority

March of 2018 was set to be a busy year for the Sioux Falls Sports Authority with the Summit League Championship setting its sights on Sioux Falls for the 10th straight year, NCAA Division II looking to make history by holding the first-ever combined men's and women's basketball championship, and NCAA Division I Ice Hockey making its first appearance in our great city. As planning was in full swing late last fall, another intriguing event came into the picture. The NAIA Division II Men's Basketball Championship was looking for a new home to bring 32 teams for its championship, and in November 2017, chose Sioux Falls as its host for 2018 and 2019.

The five championships took over the town in the month of March and the events, new and old, put up some impressive numbers. In 22 days, Sioux Falls hosted 68 teams to play 62 games with three National Champions, a regional champion and two conference champions crowned. Of the 62 games played, 12 were broadcasted nationally on CBS, CBS Sports Network and ESPN. The NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship aired on CBS prior to the Division I Elite Eight games, and 1.24 million viewers tuned in to watch Ferris State (Big Rapids, Mich.) defeat Northern State 71-69 in front of a record-setting, standing room only crowd of 3,538 fans at the Sanford Pentagon.

As the coaches, student-athletes and administrators assembled in Sioux Falls' hotels, their families and fans followed. The Summit League championships once again set attendance records at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, with the women's championship being the highest attended conference tournament in the country, surpassing the SEC, ACC, Pac-12 and Big Ten to name a few. A women's championship game attendance record was also set with 8,704 fans settling into the PREMIER Center on a snowy Tuesday afternoon to see the Jackrabbits triumph over the Coyotes 65-50, helping the overall tournament attendance reach the second-highest total of all-time with 27,054 fans passing through the gates. The men's championship game featured its second-highest attendance mark at the Summit League Championships with 11,114 fans filling the seats at the PREMIER Center to watch South Dakota State earn a trip to the Big Dance with a 97-87 win over South Dakota.

March by the Numbers

68 Teams

62 Games

3 National Champions

2 Conference Champions

12 National Television Broadcasts

In bringing the NCAA Division I Ice Hockey West Regional to Sioux Falls for the first time, the Sioux Falls Sports Authority partnered with the University of North Dakota and the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. When the UND Men's Hockey team, which has 32 NCAA Tournament appearances all-time, did not make the tournament, some might have thought that would have a negative impact on the crowds in Sioux Falls. What happened was the West Regional became the highest attended regional of the four, competing against Worcester, Mass., Allentown, Pa. and Bridgeport, Conn. A total of 16,007 fans attended the West Regional at the PREMIER Center, outdrawing the next closest regional by over 2,000 fans.

As the hockey championship was going on at the PREMIER Center, the NCAA Division II Men's and Women's Basketball national title hunt was heating up at the Sanford Pentagon. The NCAA chose Sioux Falls to be the host of the first-ever combined Division II Men's and Women's Basketball Championship, and the Sioux Falls Sports Authority was excited about the opportunity to try something new with the NCAA. Both championships were played at the 3,200 seat Pentagon. Total attendance topped 20,000 as fans watched 16 teams play 14 games from March 19-24. The women's championship game on Friday night was attended by 1,249 fans, while the men's championship set a venue record with an official sellout crowd of 3,538.

Sandwiched in between the Summit League Championships and the NCAA Division II Men's and Women's Elite Eight, the Sioux Falls Sports Authority hosted the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball Elite Eight for the first time at the Sanford Pentagon. The NAIA DII Men's Basketball Championship featured 32 teams, which played 31 games over seven days, including eight games per day the first three days of competition. All 32 teams were also engaged with the community via school visits and the Honorary Coach Program, which paired each team with a member of the Sioux Falls community who was labeled as an Honorary Coach. The honorary coach and a guest joined their team at practice, team meals and on the bench during the games, while also being announced during team introductions prior to tip-off.

To make these events happen, the Sioux Falls Sports Authority relies on a dedicated and reliable group of volunteers. In March 2018, more than 200 volunteers gave up their time to be involved in each of the championships, with many individuals working all the events. Thank you to all of our volunteers for their time and support.

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