BILLINGS – For the third year in a row, Billings rolled out the red carpet for the 500 student athletes that make up the NAIA Division One Women’s National Basketball Championship Tournament.
Thirty-two teams from across the country convened Tuesday at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings for the tournament. There’s plenty of action to be had over the next seven game days. But all of the action wasn’t necessarily on the Hardwood.
“This event is absolutely a community-wide event, a regional event, and a statewide event,” said Alex Tyson, Visit Billings executive director. “(These teams) come here to really live out their championship dream.”
Getting the arena ready for the tournament this year was easier than in years past. This is because the basketball court has been up for about a month already.
MetraPark General Manager Bill Dutcher said that the courts have been up since the Super Class A Divisional Basketball Tournament on Feb. 20.
What makes Billings the place to hold the tournament? According to Tyson, it’s up to the community.
“The NAIA wants to make sure that their student athletes have an incredible time and that they are taken care of,” Tyson said. “But making sure that the championship itself, all 31 teams, go off without a hitch. That’s a big commitment, and this community steps up.”
Events like the NAIA national tournament are big economic drivers for Billings during these slow spring months.
“This is a really big economic boost to Billings. We’ve got to remember we’re still in the middle of winter. It’s the middle of March, yes. But two weeks ago we were sub-zero. So, it’s nice that we have the all-class state wrestling, Southern B Divisional, Southern A Divisional, state basketball, and then go right into this. It really is something that helps us through these kind of colder slower value season months,” Tyson said.
Also this week, make sure to keep an eye out for four Montana teams that are competing in the tournament: University of Montana Western, University of Providence in Great Falls, Carroll College, and Rocky Mountain College.