St. Louis to host NCAA's 'Frozen Four' hockey finals

Saturday, June 28, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis has earned its reputation as a baseball town, but as far as the NCAA is concerned, it's a hockey town, too.

And a basketball town. And a wrestling town.

The NCAA on Friday chose St. Louis as the site for the 2007 "Frozen Four," hockey's equivalent of basketball's Final Four. The semifinals will be at the Savvis Center April 5, 2007, and the championship game will be April 7.

It was the latest in a long line of successful efforts by the city to lure NCAA championship events. The wrestling championships were here in 2000, and a year later St. Louis hosted the Women's Final Four.

NCAA wrestling championships will return in both 2004 and 2005. The city will host the men's basketball Midwest Regional next year and the grand prize, basketball's Final Four, in 2005.

There may be more to come. The NCAA is expected to award men's Final Fours for 2008 through 2011 on Monday, and Women's Final Fours for 2008 through 2010 the same day. St. Louis is a finalist for both.

The Frozen Four, broadcast on ESPN, has come a long way since it was last here in 1975. Nine of the past 11 have been sold out, and next year's event at the Fleet Center in Boston is already a sellout.

The NCAA also on Friday picked Denver to host the 2008 Frozen Four. Three other cities -- St. Paul, Minn., Detroit and Philadelphia were finalists for the 2007 and 2008 events.

St. Louis had come up short in recent efforts to land the Frozen Four. But NCAA officials liked the persistence of the city's effort, noting that St. Louis representatives attended several recent Frozen Fours.

"From St. Louis' perspective, the committee really noted their enthusiasm for college hockey," said Ron Grahame, a member of the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Committee. "They sold us that the city embraces college hockey and they would do a wonderful job."

St. Louis is home to the NHL's Blues, and nearby St. Charles hosts minor-league hockey's Missouri River Otters. The region has growing youth and high school hockey programs.

But college ice hockey is nowhere to be found. In fact, there are no NCAA hockey teams in Missouri.

That fact was not a drawback, said Ian McCaw, chairman of the NCAA Hockey Committee.

"This will expose college hockey to new markets that we are excited about," he said.

Sports Commission officials said the Frozen Four is expected to draw around 12,000 visitors generating an economic impact of $5 million to $10 million.

Several other national events are coming to St. Louis in the years to come. They include the Olympic diving and women's marathon trials in 2004, the Global Torch Relay and U.S. Senior Open in 2004, and the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 2006.

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