‘It’s in our DNA’: Phoenix pitches to host NCAA Women’s Final Four

Although Talking Stick Resort Arena is under construction now, it will be ready if Phoenix lands the Women’s Final Four in 2026. An enhanced arena was part of the local committee’s selling point. (Photo by Kevin Hurley/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Some of the country’s biggest sporting events have taken place in the Valley of the Sun. The Super Bowl, College Football Playoff’s National Championship and the NCAA Men’s Final Four have all called Arizona home at least once since 2015, with some of them due to return in the next few years.

So what’s missing from this impressive resume?

“It’s in our DNA to host these championships,” Brooke Todare said. “For us, the Women’s Final Four is the missing piece of that.”

Todare, who played golf at ASU, is co-chair of the local committee pushing for Phoenix to host the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 2026. She and her team made a virtual pitch to the NCAA Thursday.

“We made sure to tell the story as to why Phoenix is where they want to be in 2026,” Todare said in an interview with Cronkite News.

Phoenix previously bid to host the 2007 Women’s Final Four, but lost out to Cleveland. Todare believes the NCAA won’t pass on Phoenix this time.

“Since the ‘07 bid, we’re a completely different city,” Todare said. “We’ve made the investments needed to host these events … I think it’s just the perfect package for the NCAA and their student-athletes.”

Brooke Todare, as co-chair of the local committee pushing for Phoenix to host the Women’s Final Four, made a virtual pitch to the NCAA Thursday. (Photo courtesy ASU department of psychology)

Along with improved hotels and better public transportation, Todare cited the $230 million renovations to Talking Stick Resort Arena as one of the main reasons why this bid will be different from the last.

“Any time you can show a beautiful new arena and the investments being made in that … That’s extremely attractive for the NCAA and the women’s basketball committee,” Todare said.

Todare believes hosting the Women’s Final Four would help Phoenix economically more than the other tournaments because it would take place in the heart of downtown, as opposed to State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

“What’s unique about this championship is its entire footprint is downtown,” Todare said. “It would be extremely beneficial for the state from an economic standpoint to have it.”

According to Visit Tampa Bay, where the 2019 tournament was held, 21,000 people visited Tampa Bay for the tournament, and with them came a $16 million impact on the local economy.

But for Todare, hosting the tournament means more than just an economic boom.

“That’s not entirely our focus in going after this,” Todare said. “We just believe in the diversity of the event, what it’ll bring for the community, and what the NCAA championship coming here can do for their coaches and student-athletes.”

Todare and her team’s main focus is on preparing for the bid’s final pitch later in September, but their presentation Thursday gave them confidence.

“I don’t think we could’ve done anything differently or better,” Todare said. “We put our best foot forward, we had all the right community partners show up and participate, and we all feel really, really good that we were able to show them why Phoenix is where they want to be in 2026.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Ethan Greni is a transfer student from California who expects to graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Greni is a digital reporter covering hockey for Cronkite News.