Women’s basketball leaves Moline after 9 years

Women’s basketball leaves Moline after 9 years

After nine years of the Moline arena hosting the Missouri Valley Conference’s Hoops in the Heartland Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament, the ball will be in a different court the next two years.

The conference announced Thursday it’s adopting a rotating cycle of hosting cities, with Evansville, Indiana (Ford Center) hosting the 2025 tournament, Iowa City/Coralville (Xtream Arena) in 2026, and returning to Moline’s Vibrant Arena at The MARK in 2027.

Officials say the rotation will allow the conference to gain national brand visibility in new communities while allowing student-athletes to experience new venues. The event has been held at the Vibrant Arena at The MARK since 2016, the longest-standing hosting venue in the tournament’s history.

“On behalf of our Board of Directors and professional team, we look forward to hosting the Missouri Valley Women’s Basketball Tournament in 2027,” Dave Herrell, president/CEO of Visit Quad Cities, said in a Thursday release. “We have always prided ourselves on serving and prioritizing student-athletes, which will continue to be our focus. Hoops in the Heartland continues to fulfill our mission and drive value for our region’s sports tourism goals.”

A Hoops in the Heartland women’s basketball game this past March at Vibrant Arena at The MARK.
A Hoops in the Heartland women’s basketball game this past March at Vibrant Arena at The MARK.

Recognizing the evolving landscape of collegiate athletics, Herrell expressed respect for the conference’s decision to rotate the tournament during the next contract cycle. He added, “We’re ready to offer our support and expertise to our colleagues in Evansville and Iowa City/Coralville.”

In 2024, the Missouri Valley Conference (along with the ACC, A-10, Big East, Pac-12, and SEC), was one of only six conferences where the women’s basketball championship was played at a neutral site, separate from the men’s championship and on a different weekend.

“We are thrilled to continue to provide our women’s basketball student-athletes with the opportunity to be showcased in a neutral-site, stand-alone tournament,” Valparaiso President José D. Padilla, board chair of the Missouri Valley Conference, said in a MVC release.

“The next three years will give us the opportunity to grow the Missouri Valley Conference’s national brand through visibility in new communities while affording our student-athletes the chance to experience new conference tournament venues. I know the conference office staff, member institutions, and our championship site hosts will work diligently to continue to provide a first-rate student-athlete and fan experience during our women’s basketball tournament.”

All 12 MVC women’s basketball teams will compete in the four-day tournament, with four opening-round games on Thursday, four quarterfinal games on Friday, two semifinal games on Saturday, culminating in a Sunday championship game in each of the next three seasons. The league tournament champion earns an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re excited about developing new relationships and growing the sport of women’s basketball in the region,” MVC Commissioner Jeff Jackson said. “The championship rotation model includes three great venues and three great communities who share the Conference’s goal of prioritizing women’s basketball.”

Action during the 2022 women’s basketball tournament at The MARK in Moline.
Action during the 2022 women’s basketball tournament at The MARK in Moline.

Beyond the excitement of the competition, the tournament brings substantial economic growth to the QC, with the 2023 event alone generating a local economic impact of $1.9 million, underscoring the importance of regional sports tourism, the Visit Quad Cities release said.

Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament was at Vibrant Arena at the MARK from Thursday-Sunday, March 14-17, 2024.

This year marked the ninth consecutive year of this event’s QC residency, affirming its status as the nation’s longest standalone neutral site women’s basketball tournament.

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