2001 NCAA Women's Final Four
Event, community took Arch Madness to an unforgettable level
March 30 - April 1 - Savvis CenterWhen Niele Ivey snapped the final piece of netting from one of the hoops at Savvis Center, she brought to a close yet another spectacular chapter in St. Louis sports history.
Notre Dame had sewn up its first womens basketball national championship. Ivey a Cor Jesu Academy graduate had come home to help lead the way. The fact that the senior guard for the Irish cut down the net in her hometown was a terrific story in itself. And it turned out to be just one of many shining moments that made the Final Four so special for St. Louis.
From the energy of 1,000 volunteers to the synergy of a community dressed to embrace the Womens Final Four, St. Louis showed its love to one of the great spectacles in college sports. In return, the region received plenty: $20.9 million in economic impact and 30,000 visitors according to a study by Webster University Professor Patrick Rishe. ESPN tipped in with seven hours of primetime national TV coverage as well.
And while those numbers can be tracked, the priceless elements associated with the Final Four the excitement, drama, and memories made the event all the more meaningful.
Each of the four teams that survived the March to the Arch arrived in St. Louis with its own great storyline. The biggest involved in-state favorite and tournament surprise Southwest Missouri State. With SMS came Jackie Stiles, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA womens basketball history, plus thousands of fans from Springfield, Mo.
For those who were caught up in Jackie-mania the script wasnt perfect. The Bears exited Friday night. But the championship game on Sunday a 68-66 win for Notre Dame over Purdue was a treat for any college hoops fan and a classic that will permanently have St. Louis written all over it.
That thrilling finish and the appearance by four teams with lots of appeal were all part of the luck of the draw. But a little skill didnt hurt either. And the collective efforts of the host Missouri Valley Conference, St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, Sports Commission and thousands of other individuals and groups in the local community created an experience that made the 2001 Womens Final Four one of the best ever.
As part of the St. Louis Organizing Committee, the Sports Commission recruited more than 1,000 volunteers, who left an indelible impression on the fans, teams, media members and NCAA officials that visited St. Louis.
"The Final Four reminded us of just how great of an asset we have in the people that call St. Louis home," said SLOC Executive Director Missy Slay. "The friendliness, enthusiasm and pride our volunteers took in representing the community wowed our guests. Because of them, St. Louis shined even brighter in the national spotlight."
The region also thrived as site of the Final Four because of support from local businesses and corporations. The SLOC surpassed its $1 million fund-raising goal in advance of Championship Week. That helped provide resources St. Louis needed to be a first-class host.
To help carry everything out, the SLOC created a steering committee chaired by Ellen Sherberg, publisher of the St. Louis Business Journal. The committee included members of St. Louis business and athletic communities, who contributed valuable expertise and innovative ideas. Among the ones that came to life: a giant bracket in Kiener Plaza, basketballs painted on downtown streets, and the renowned "March to the Arch," in which 2,600 fans of all ages dribbled basketballs from Savvis Center to Kiener Plaza on the Saturday of the Final Four weekend.
"March to the Arch" was just one of many activities that offered fans without game tickets the chance to be part of Arch Madness. The lineup for Championship Week included the NCAAs interactive Hoop City fan-fest, open practices and autograph sessions, a Kiener Plaza pep rally, YES Clinics, the WBCA All-Star Challenge, Game Face Symposium and a Middle School Madness educational program that linked classroom learning for middle school students to the Womens Final Four.
Tournament Director Patty Viverito said, "By raising the awareness
and consciousness of womens basketball in St. Louis to new level,
the excitement generated by the Final Four has permanently changed the
way our region thinks about womens sports. Our residents have
gained a new appreciation and admiration for these athletes something
that is valuable in shaping how our community views and responds to
womens sports in the future."