NCAA Awards Eight Events To Cleveland Area, Making Up For 2020 Losses

Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland
The city and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission lost out on hosting eight NCAA events this year due to the pandemic. [Tim Harrison]

Cleveland will host several college championships in the coming years, including the first and second rounds of the Men's NCAA Basketball tournament in 2025 and the 2026 NCAA Wrestling championships, both to be held at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse Downtown. 

Cleveland lost out on hosting the 2020 NCAA basketball tournament due to the pandemic. Greater Cleveland Sports Commission CEO David Gilbert said the city could have hosted the event again any year between 2023 and 2026.

"We, quite frankly, didn't really have a preference of year, but the NCAA did give special preference to sites where those events were canceled this year due to COVID," Gilbert said.

He called the wrestling championship a major event, projected to bring in $15 million to the area.

"Outside of hosting the women's Final Four, which we're hosting in 2024, it's the most significant NCAA event Cleveland can host," Gilbert said. "It's great because between (20)24, 25 and 26, we're hosting all three of the largest NCAA events we can host.

"In total the eight events that we were awarded will bring in over $27 million into the Cleveland area," he said.

NCAA is providing health guidance a season at a time, Gilbert explained, and it's also dependent on state and community impacts of COVID.

The city and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission lost out on hosting eight NCAA and national events this year due to the pandemic, but was awarded seven NCAA events Wednesday.

"It was a smaller year overall, about $13 million or so, and nearly every dollar of that has been awarded to Cleveland for future years," Gilbert said. "We lost almost nothing if you look at it over a multi-year period of time for Cleveland."

Classic Park in Eastlake will also host the Division III NCAA baseball championships from 2024 through 2026. The SPIRE Institute in Geneva will hold men's and women's swimming/diving and outdoor track and field championships in 2024 and 2025. The women's 2026 bowling championships will be held in Wickliffe. 

"Since 2000, we're now up to over 215 events that have or will take place in Cleveland — national events due to the efforts of the organization — and now collectively we are narrowing in on $850 million in impact," Gilbert said.

The next major sporting event set for Cleveland is the 2021 NFL Draft, starting April 29, just over six months from now. Gilbert said it will look slightly different than raucous drafts in the past.

"We certainly know it will not be an elbow to elbow event as we saw in Nashville, the last live event," he said. "It had grown at that point with almost 100,000 people per day attending, but it is being planned as a major live event."

The NFL Draft was expected to have an impact of over $100 million. They're revising that down to tens of millions because of COVID concerns, Gilbert said.

On the day of the NCAA tournament announcements, Ohio reported over 2,000 confirmed and presumed coronavirus cases.

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