The NCAA announced a slew of postseason hosting sites for nearly every sport earlier today, which contains a few things of note for Iowa fans. First and foremost, Iowa City will be hosting a few events in the future:
— The Iowa Hawkeyes (@TheIowaHawkeyes) April 18, 2017
That would be the Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in 2021, the Women's Gymnastics NCAA Regionals in 2021, and the NCAA Cross-Country Regionals in 2022. Hopefully Iowa will also have a few athletes coming in those events as well, so they can enjoy a bit of home field (or pool or mat or running path) advantage.
The next four NCAA Wrestling Tournament host sites after 2018 (in Cleveland) were also announced:
Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Detroit will play host to the NCAA Division I Nationals following the... https://t.co/gLrPxv479Y
— WIN Magazine (@WINWrestlingMag) April 18, 2017
Pittsburgh will host in 2019, Minneapolis in 2020, St. Louis in 2021, and Detroit in 2022. All of those cities have previously hosted the NCAA Wrestling Championships, although it's been a while in some cases. Pittsburgh last hosted way back in 1957 (when Danny Hodge himself was named Most Outstanding Wrestler of the event!). Detroit (or Auburn Hills, technically) last hosted in 2007, while St. Louis has been a frequent host (they've hosted five of the last 10 tournaments, including this year's event).
But it's the Minneapolis choice that most intrigues me, and not just because it's in my backyard. Minneapolis last hosted in 1996, at Target Center, the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Williams Arena (aka, The Barn), the University of Minnesota's extremely, ah, cozy indoor arena for basketball and occasionally wrestling and a few other indoor sports. (Ed. Note: Whoops.) They're going to be in a slightly bigger location when the NCAA Tournament returns in 2020 -- US Bank Stadium, the gargantuan new home of the Minnesota Vikings. That... is going to be quite a spectacle.
I can't fathom them selling out that facility for the NCAA Wrestling Tournament -- I don't know what it might seat for wrestling, but it seats 66,665 for football and they certainly wouldn't sell that many seats for college wrestling -- but they should still be able to shatter the existing attendance records for the NCAA Wrestling Tournament. I believe the existing record for all three days is 113,013, which was set in St. Louis in 2015. But all of the existing records were set at facilities where the maximum capacity was 20,000 or less per session; the capacity will be much higher at US Bank Stadium. Even if they only average 20-25K per session (an improvement of around 5K per session on the attendance numbers from St. Louis), they'd still wind up with around 150K in total attendance. If nothing else, it will be a fascinating answer to just what the upper limits of attendance could be for an event like the NCAA Wrestling Tournament.
From an Iowa standpoint, it could also be a truly epic setting for Iowa to claim their long-awaited 24th national title. That year's team is set to feature multiple highly-ranked recruits (Spencer Lee, Michael Kemerer, Alex Marinelli, Kaleb Young, and Jacob Warner); if they develop as hoped/expected -- and Iowa is able to supplement them with a few more high-quality starters -- Iowa could have a team with the firepower to finally bring some hardware back to Iowa City.
From a logistical standpoint, it's a setting that's also likely to feature some truly atrocious seats if they make all of the seats in the stadium available for sale. The nosebleed seats at US Bank are VERY FAR from the action on the field. If gigantic NFL players can look tiny from up there (and they do!), I can't imagine how tiny college wrestlers (many of whom are literally half the size of NFL players) would look from that distance.
Finally, the NCAA also announced the host sites for every round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament through 2022. Of note: Des Moines will be the host for first and second round games in 2019. That's when this year's bumper crop of freshmen (Jordan Bohannon, Tyler Cook, Cordell Pemsl, etc.) will be juniors, this year's incoming recruits (Jack Nunge, Luka Garza, maybe Connor McCaffery) will be sophomores, and much-hyped future recruit Joe Wieskamp will be a freshman. It would certainly be sweet if they could play well enough to earn a trip to Des Moines for the opening rounds of the Tournament and give themselves some virtual home games. (Granted, we've been down this path in the not-too-distant past with an unpleasant outcome -- Iowa went from seemingly headed to Des Moines in 2016 to barely making the field of 64 and being sent out to Brooklyn after an ugly February swoon -- but hey. Hope springs eternal and new teams offer new reasons to dream big.) The Final Four destinations for the next five years were previously announced as San Antonio (2018), Minneapolis* (2019), Atlanta (2020), Indianapolis (2021), and New Orleans (2022). The full breakdown of future NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament hosting sites is available here.
* If you want to really go pie-in-the-sky, Iowa could play in Des Moines in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in 2019, then head to Kansas City for the next two rounds, and wrap things up in Minneapolis for the Final Four at US Bank Stadium. It's hard to imagine better travel scenarios for Iowa fans than that.
The full list of future NCAA Tournament sites for all sports is available here.