Two years ago, the dreams of Oregon sports fans were dashed when Portland lost its bid to host either the 2025 or the 2026 women’s college basketball championships to Tampa, FL, and Phoenix, AZ, respectively.
Those dreams were restored Monday when the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced the city has finally received the nod to host the women’s final four in 2030.
Portland was one of five cities selected to host the final leg of the women’s NCAA postseason tournament between 2027 and 2030, edging out a bid from Sacramento, California. The announcement marks the successful culmination of nine months of lobbying efforts by Sport Oregon—a local nonprofit that aims to elevate the state’s profile as a sports tourism destination—as well as city and state officials to bring the event to Oregon.
“We bid two years ago, and that didn’t end up the way we wanted it to,” says Matt Reed, director of sports tourism at Sport Oregon. “We went right back to the drawing board and said, ‘How can we improve? What can we do better?’”
Reed says Portland and Oregon’s ability to host an event of this scale was never in question. We have the hotels, venues, and infrastructure to accommodate large events such as these 2022 World Athletics Championships which took place in Eugene this past summer and early rounds of the men’s March Madness tournament.
What Reed and his cohort needed to convince the NCAA was that Portland and Oregon are rabid for women’s sports.
“Our goal was to show the NCAA that we undeniably should host, that our city has a deep culture of supporting women’s athletics, of inclusivity,” he says. “That’s a huge component to this.”
Reed and company pointing out that it’s a “no brainer” for the women’s final four to come to Portland is backed up by several facts, namely the massive amount of support the Portland Thorns FC saw this season as the team rallied through turbulence it becomes the 2022 National Women’s Soccer League champions. The Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers women’s basketball teams have also seen heightened support and success on the court in recent years.
The city also hosted the women’s Sweet 16 back in 2019 when the Ducks beat South Dakota State and Mississippi State in the Moda Center to earn a spot in the championship against Baylor.
“I think this sets a really strong foundation for what’s possible in women’s sports, college sports, and youth sports, in Oregon,” says State Representative Janelle Bynum.
A member of the state legislature since 2017, Bynum has worked on several bills advancing sports, protecting young athletes, and supporting the intersection. Bynum says she sees this as a major development for those—such as herself—who want to promote the development of even better infrastructure to allow more world-class events to flourish in Oregon. She says she’s working on legislation for the future that will support the intersection of sports, tourism, and economic development.
“Sports are pretty countercyclical and recession proof,” she says. “Coming out of the pandemic, families flocked to sports events at all levels. People will spend their last five dollars to take their kids to that soccer tournament or to a Pilot’s game because we need those small wins in life that bring families together.”
Reed says the city and state leaders, as well as business partners in the local community, have been supportive of the group’s efforts to host major events. He says Sport Oregon plans to capitalize on this momentum in pushing the city and region even further to become leaders in sports tourism.
“A mega event like this is really going to make it rain for a while,” he says. “Our whole mentality is that Portland is the number one market for women’s sports.”