If you want to go to the nation's biggest sporting events, stay right here in North Texas. Arenas in Dallas-Fort Worth have played host to the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the All-Star game and even the World Series. For the first time this year, Dallas will host the Women's Final Four March 31 and April 2.
Why Dallas? "We look for cities that support women and have a history of supporting women and bringing in events that are for and about women," says Anucha Browne, vice president of women's basketball championships for the NCAA.
"The fact that Dallas and the state of Texas has a phenomenal history in women's basketball played a particularly large role."
She's talking about Baylor University, which earned a No. 1 seed going into the tournament this year but got knocked out with a loss to Mississippi State last weekend. Texas has historically had strong women's basketball teams at other big schools too: Texas A&M, Texas Tech and the University of Texas in addition to Baylor, Browne says. All four teams have won at least one national championship in women's basketball.
Texas also turns out "some of the best women's basketball players" on the high school level, Browne says. And Dallas has its own WNBA team in the Dallas Wings, which was just established in 2016.
"There are so many good stories to tell about women's basketball in Texas," Browne says.
It wasn't always so easy, though: Dallas' organizing committee didn't win the bid in 2008 in an attempt to secure the big game in Big D. The committee proved that Dallas was an attractive, optimal city for female athletes several years later, on its next attempt.
The Women's Final Four games on March 31 and April 2 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas are expected to sell out, Browne notes, though tickets are still available now. The family-friendly weekend is expected to bring in women and families, and there's a lot more to do than watch the games inside the Dallas Mavericks' arena.
Women's empowerment is essential to Final Four weekend, Browne says: "One of the most important factors for us is, how can we use this event to bring women together to support women?"
Here's a look at what else is happening on Final Four weekend in Dallas:
Beyond the Baseline
A special event aimed at women in leadership takes place at 11:30 a.m. March 30 at Tower Club of Dallas. Beyond the Baseline is free and features speakers such as Kristi Scales of the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network and Patti Phillips, CEO of Women Leaders in College Sports.
Whether fans have a ticket to the basketball games, they're invited to the free Tourney Town festival in the American Airlines Center's parking lot E. Free basketball clinics (advance registration is required) will be offered for boys and girls in grades 3 through 11. There will also be a zip line; a tribute wall to the late, legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summitt; an "autograph zone" and food trucks. The pep rally on April 2 will get fans jazzed for the national championship game at 5 p.m.
Jennifer Nettles concert at Tourney Town
One half of the country band Sugarland Jennifer Nettles is performing for free for a select audience on April 1. Note that the Final Four semifinal games are March 31 and the national championship is April 2, so the Nettles concert on the date in between is an activity for fans on the day off. The show is at capacity, and attendees were required to purchase a ticket to the NCAA games in order to get admittance. So if you didn't score tickets, consider these other options: Here's our list of the notable restaurants near the American Airlines Center, and here's a list of the most exciting events happening in Dallas that weekend.
The Bounce at Tourney Town
At AT&T Plaza (the area outside the American Airlines Center) at 10 a.m. April 2, a few thousand kids are expected to show up to dribble basketballs along a course near the venue. If it sounds like a beautiful mess, it might be: Kids in third through eighth grade are invited, and they don't have to be excellent dribblers. Pre-registration required; kids get a free ball.
Pat Green concert at Tourney Town
Fort Worth country singer Pat Green will get fans ready for the national championship on April 2 with a midday concert at 3:15 p.m. at Tourney Town. No ticket is required for the free Green show, where he's bound to sing "Take Me Out to a Dancehall," "Southbound 35" and "Way Back Texas," a few of his many Texas-loving tunes. DJ Shawna, a.k.a. Shawna Nicols, a former University of Wisconsin women's basketball player, opens for Green at 2:30 p.m. April 2.
For anyone not attending the Women's Final Four games, each will be aired on ESPN. The games that lead up to that weekend will also air on ESPN networks in March.