San Antonio to host entire NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship

The+UTSA+Convocation+Center+has+been+named+as+one+of+five+venues+where+the+NCAA+Division+I+Women%27s+Basketball+Championship+will+be+held.+The+Convocation+Center+will+host+first+round+games+on+March+21+and+March+22%2C+followed+by+second+round+games+on+March+23+and+March+24.

Ryan Garza

The UTSA Convocation Center has been named as one of five venues where the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship will be held. The Convocation Center will host first round games on March 21 and March 22, followed by second round games on March 23 and March 24.

Ryder Martin, Sports Editor

In a statement and press event on Friday, Feb. 8, the NCAA and the city of San Antonio jointly announced that the 2021 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship would be played in its entirety in San Antonio and the surrounding area. The tournament will use five venues and six courts for the event. The first round will be played from March 21 to March 22 at the Bill Greehey Arena (St. Mary’s), the Frank Erwin Center (Texas), the University Events Center (Texas State), the Alamodome, which will host two courts and UTSA’s very own Convocation Center. Following the conclusion of the first round, the second round will cut the venue list down to three with just the Alamodome, Bill Greehey Arena and the Convocation Center hosting games from March 23 to March 24. After the second round finishes, all remaining games will be played at the Alamodome, starting with the Sweet Sixteen on March 27 and March 28, followed by the Elite Eight on March 29 and March 30 and the Women’s Final Four that will conclude the tournament on April 2 and April 4. 

San Antonio had originally been slated to host just the Women’s Final Four, but the current situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the NCAA to move the tournament to a single geographic location. In a prepared statement, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg expressed his excitement in welcoming the NCAA to San Antonio. 

“On behalf of the city of San Antonio, I’m honored to announce that for the first time in tournament history, San Antonio and our surrounding communities will be the site for the 64-team NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship next month.” 

The event will see 64 teams from across the country converge on San Antonio in the midst of one of the biggest public health crises in American history, which may cause the public to question whether or not the tournament can be conducted safely. Mayor Nirenberg took the opportunity to address these concerns and emphasize the commitment to health and safety that will drive this tournament. 

“You have our commitment that we will deliver a safe and successful tournament for everyone involved… the NCAA and Metro Health officials are working together every step of the way to ensure safety, that comes first. The united commitment to health and safety is a crucial part of the equation and foundation on which this tournament will be built.”

The impact on San Antonio in terms of public health and safety will come to define this tournament’s legacy, but steps are being taken to ensure a safe tournament can be conducted. Current NCAA protocols for the tournament call for seven negative tests prior to teams arriving in San Antonio, and all teams will use private chartered transportation. Once the teams arrive in San Antonio, they will be subject to daily testing and restricted to their own individual pods. These preventative steps will be crucial as the city of San Antonio currently estimates that between loading the 64 teams and their travel parties, there will be approximately 35,000 room nights in downtown San Antonio for the duration of the tournament. The teams and their travel parties will stay at seven hotels in the local San Antonio area and little to no community interaction is expected during the tournament.  

In a prepared statement, NCAA Vice President of Women’s Basketball Lynn Holzman expressed her gratitude to the city of San Antonio for their work in helping ensure this event could be held.

“From the city of San Antonio, to local and area host universities, the hotel community, convention center and others, we have been greeted with open arms and a can do attitude…We are very appreciative and grateful for the work done to date by our school hosts at UIW, UTSA, Houston, St. Mary’s, Texas State and the University of Texas.”  

One of the biggest questions that still has to be answered regarding the tournament is whether or not fans will be allowed to attend. Fan attendance at certain games remain a fluid situation, but current plans for the tournament are calling for attendance in the early rounds of the tournament to be limited to just family members of the players, although even this depends on local officials giving the go ahead closer to the start of the event. Later rounds may have the possibility of fan attendance in a limited capacity, but no final determination has been made. Any decision on fan attendance will likely be made much closer to the start of the event due to the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic. 

The 2021 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship will begin with the setting of the tournament field on March 15, and the first games tip off on March 22. Every game of the tournament will be available to watch on the ESPN family of channels.