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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 1:00 am

D-III tourney new experience for three hosts

ELIZABETH WYMAN | The Journal Gazette

Visit Fort Wayne sponsors countless events through the year, but the NCAA Division III men's basketball championship is different.

“What's unique about this situation is that Visit Fort Wayne, Manchester and Memorial Coliseum are really in charge of the success of this event,” said Stephanie Coleman, Visit Fort Wayne group sales manager. “The actual Coliseum staff, Visit Fort Wayne and the Memorial Coliseum staff decide on our marketing brand. We're planning this event and have our hands in how it goes in a much bigger capacity than we really ever have.”

But the three groups were ready to host a national sporting event in what will be the first of the next five years that Fort Wayne will host the Division III men's championship.

The NCAA does its bidding process every four years, so in 2016 the Coliseum decided it wanted to play host to NCAA events at some point, therefore the year-long bidding process for the Division III men's championship and Division I women's regional – which will be at the Coliseum next season – began.

“For our city it really means so much to have those initials 'NCAA' behind an event,” Coleman said. “It's a different experience for our residents to have this high-caliber competition, and it's an opportunity for our city to showcase what we can handle.”

Not only showcase what the city can handle but what Indiana can handle.

In 2021, Indiana will play host to men's basketball championships at all three levels – Division I in Indianapolis, Division II in Evansville and Division III in Fort Wayne.

“It's really huge for our state to be awarded three basketball championships all in our home state; that was big for us,” Coleman said.

The combination of partnerships among the Coliseum, Manchester and Visit Fort Wayne all bring something a little different to the table in the production of the championship.

“The Coliseum staff knows their building and they know how to run it, so Visit Fort Wayne takes care of all those other little touches outside of the building to make it special,” Coleman said.

From signs and street banners to booking the hotels and welcoming the teams, Visit Fort Wayne has its hands full in making sure things run smoothly when the teams land in the Summit City.

Social media is a large component of the success of the event.

“The last thing we want is for people to be in our town and be excited to be here for the championship and other people say 'what, I didn't know that was happening.' We want our residents to be informed,” Coleman said. “We find our social media is really strong and heavily followed, so it's a great vehicle to get the word out.”

Teams arrive today, practice Thursday and the semifinal games start Friday night.

“We're ready for that tip of the ball to start because then it's smooth sailing from there,” Coleman said.

ewyman@jg.net