ROCKFORD (WREX) — Rockford is now on the map for sports on the national collegiate level. It's the first time the region will host a Division I women's basketball championship tournament and it's happening at the UW Sports Health Factory starting late March.
The Forest City is a big basketball town.
"Take a look at Fred VanVleet and the work that he is doing this year in the NBA and now especially our young girls are going to have something to aspire to right here. The national stage is going to be right here in Rockford and not just young girls, young children," said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.
The love of the game can now be shared at a national level. That's because Triple Crown Sports selected the UW Health Sports Factory as a host for the 2021 Postseason Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT).
Normally the NIT's postseason would include more than 60 teams at participating universities, but this year just over 30 teams will compete head to head at four different sites.
The Rockford Park District says watching eight teams compete on the courts downtown will guide youth towards their dreams.
"You're striving to get to the college level and to be able to see that means that you can achieve it," said Rockford Park District Operations Director Danielle Potter.
Potter says about 150 to 200 fans will be allowed into the building come March 19.
"Many of them will be staying at the brand new Embassy Suites hotel right across the river, exactly how we planned this," said Mayor McNamara. "They will be able to walk up and down our beautiful downtown with so many locally owned shops."
"Visitors who spend dollars, who enhance our reputation, who improve our economy and who get people back to work," said Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau President John Groh.
Bringing new life into Rockford and building a local economy that's here to stay.
The first round of the tournament begins March 19. The last round will be played on March 22. The four regional champions will then move on to another site for the semifinals and the championship. Tickets will be sold in advanced but have not been released yet.