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How do you land a big event? Tips from the organizers of the next DIII Men’s Basketball Championship

Allen County War Memorial Coliseum

With just one exception, Division III men’s basketball champions have been crowned in Salem, Virginia, for more than two decades, but that tradition ends this spring, when Fort Wayne, Indiana, hosts the finals. Beginning in 2019 and continuing through 2022, the Division III Men’s Basketball Championship will take place in the 13,000-seat Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, brought there via the efforts of arena officials, representatives from Visit Fort Wayne and nearby Manchester University, the host school. Local organizers hope pulling off a successful event will turn the city into a regular NCAA championship stop.  

After the championship’s storied history in Salem, how did Fort Wayne manage to land the finals? Manchester Athletics Director Rick Espeset and Memorial Coliseum Vice President of Sales Nathan Dennison share what they learned through the bid process and offer tips on what to expect if your school or city earns the right to host:

Ask For Help

Turning to an outsider familiar with the nuances of the bidding process can be advantageous, particularly if it’s your first time vying for a championship. The group in Fort Wayne, for instance, elicited the help of a former NCAA national office staff member-turned-consultant. The consultant shared expertise on how to assemble an appealing budget proposal and highlighted areas in the application that were most vital. “I think from the outside looking into the NCAA, it’s a little bit daunting for a venue,” Dennison says. “The decision to hire the consultant to help us in the process was a pretty simple one. That investment so far has paid off really well.”

Hit The Road

The good news? You’re going to host a championship! The bad news? You’re going to host a championship. If you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, spend time with those who can light your way. A contingent from Fort Wayne made the trip to the 2018 Division III Men’s Basketball Championship in Salem to see firsthand what it would take to pull off a memorable event. They peppered their counterparts in Virginia with questions throughout their stay and were grateful for the insights. “We really just immersed ourselves,” Dennison says. “OK, what did it take to put this on? What works? What maybe doesn’t? ... I just can’t say enough about how valuable our trip to Salem was.”

Rely On Your Campus

Depending on the size of the championship, you may need a fleet of volunteers and workers to handle event management, sports information duties and athletic training needs. Manchester plans to lean on its students and staff, who will fill those important roles while simultaneously garnering invaluable experience. Espeset estimates about two dozen students will have the chance to contribute — and learn. “There’s going to be an influx of students that are going to gain experience,” he says. “There are going to be all kinds of opportunities.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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