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Big winner

Officials say Final Four boosted city's economy, image

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Posted: Monday April 03, 2000 05:03 PM

  Sarah Edwards A young autograph seeker greets Tennessee's Sarah Edwards outside a Philadelphia hotel. AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Connecticut may have won the NCAA women's basketball title, but Philadelphia also came out of the Final Four weekend a big winner.

All told, the more than 40,000 fans, coaches and media were expected to bring $25 million to the city.

The event drew more reporters -- 669 -- than any previous women's Final Four. The crowd of 20,060 at Friday's semifinal games was the second-best for a national semifinal and was the largest crowd to ever witness a college basketball game, men's or women's, in Pennsylvania. Sunday night's championship between top-ranked Connecticut and No. 2 Tennessee was expected to be the most-watched women's game in history.

"This was a huge success in almost every way you can measure it," said Laura Loro, spokeswoman for the city's host committee. "Philadelphia raised the bar and elevated it to another level."

This year marked the first time the women's Final Four was held in a northeast city.

"We had not been in a really big city," said Linda Bruno, the Atlantic 10 commissioner who chaired the tournament committee in 1995. "This is the way I wanted it to happen. It's great."

Don DiJulia, athletic director at St. Joseph's University, said local organizations need to figure out how to maximize the momentum created by what he called "the premiere women's sporting event in the country."

"We are looking for a legacy and an impact on all basketball in the city. People saw this event and gained new respect for Philadelphia," DiJulia said.

And the payoff might even come in recruiting. "Anytime you're part of something so big and so visible. It only can help," DiJulia said.

University of Pennsylvania Athletic Director Steve Bilsky agreed.

"In a parochial, local way, when you have the Final Four in Philadelphia, it focuses everyone's attention on the city. It's going to help recruiting," Bilsky said.

Andruzzi said the number of media credentials and amount of corporate backing show that Philadelphia supports women's basketball.

"We raised more money than any other women's Final Four," Andruzzi said. "We raised $1.4 million through contributions, not sponsorship. That is symbolic of the energy and interest in promoting women's sports in this area."

"I think the momentum will really reach into the youth area," Bilsky said. "All the kids in this town realized that Philadelphia was the Mecca of women's basketball. It will have a greater impact for the younger kids than even the college teams."

The event is the latest in a string of big sporting events held in the city, which already hosts the Atlantic 10 men's and women's basketball post-season tournaments. The 1996 Major League Baseball and 1992 NHL All-Star games were played in the city. The First Union Center will also be the site of the 2002 NBA All-Star Game.

In 2001, Philadelphia will be the site of a men's basketball regional final, while the 2001 women's Final Four moves on to St. Louis.


 
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