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Posted: February 01, 2012

State of the state: Tourism

Women's Final Four brings hoops madness to Denver

Mike Cote

State_Bball_feb12.jpg

For the past four years, Kitty Hook and Carrie Besnette Hauser have been part of the Denver Sports team leading the effort to bring the NCAA Women's Final Four to Denver. It's about glory. It's about prestige. It's about time.

Sure, having one of the premier collegiate women's sporting events will be great for Colorado tourism and secure lots of TV time and publicity for the Mile High City April 1 and 3 at the Pepsi Center and during related community and educational activities that week.

Promotional materials for the 31st edition of the women's championships speak of building a "lasting legacy." That's more than fluff for Hook and Hauser. Hint: They're both tall. And they remember when sports for girls mostly meant joining the cheerleading squad.

"What's exciting about it is it's the first time it's ever been held in the Mountain West time zone so we'll get better viewers on TV," said Hook, a commercial broker for Cassidy Turley Fuller Real Estate who played hoops for Colorado State University. The event brings 30,000 people to town and has an economic impact of more than $20 million to the city and county of Denver and beyond.

"The one thing that is really exciting for me personally is that it helps expose women's athletics," Hook said. "We're such a sports town, and we've been able to host all the other events that predominantly are male. It's the first time we've had a huge female NCAA event."

Besnette Hauser was also active in school sports and said she benefited from Title IX, the legislation enacted in 1972 that eliminated exclusion based on gender from sports and educational activities receiving federal funding.

"Given this is the 40th anniversary of Title IX, it exposes the entire continuum and history of women and women's sports, boys and men's sports as well, the entire revolution of participation in sports and around health and wellness. ... That we're celebrating that in the first week of April in 2012 is very exciting for Denver," Besnette Hauser said.

Snagging the Women's Final Four also represents a major coup for Denver and could help the city generate momentum for other high-profile sporting events.

"It's important to note that this is the largest NCAA event that we can host in Denver given space availability and the facilities that we have," said Besnette Hauser, who recently left her post as vice president for Metropolitan State College of Denver to serve as CEO of Kauffman Scholars in Kansas City. "Men's or women's, this is the largest and biggest crown jewel that we can have."

Women's Final Four By the Numbers

0 - Number of appearances by schools from the state of Colorado in the 30-year history of the Women's Final Four (1982 to present).

3- The 2012 Women's Final Four in Denver will be the third NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship event held at the Pepsi Center. The facility hosted the 2001 Midwest Regional and the 2006 first and second rounds of the championship.

14 - In the 30 previous Women's Final Fours, 14 different teams have captured the national championship, led by Tennesse with eight and Connecticut with seven. Texas A&M won its first national championship in 2011.

6.36 million - Number of fans who have attended Division 1 Women's Basketball Championship games over the past 30 years.

14 - The 2012 Women's Final Four will be the 14th NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship event held in Colorado. Boulder has hosted 10 events, Denver, two and Fort Collins, one.

Source: National Collegiate Athletic Association

Catch the games:
The National Semifinals will be broadcast on ESPNHD at 4:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday, April 1, and at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 3.

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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