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Women's Basketball Fans Explore Columbus As Final Four Takes Over Downtown

Fan have arrived in Columbus before the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament this weekend.

Columbus is hosting the competition, at Nationwide Arena downtown, for the first time in the tournament's 37 years.

Eleven-time champion Connecticut will face eight-time Final Four participant Notre Dame on Friday night, while Louisville and Mississippi State play each other in the semifinals. The final game is Sunday.

Bill LaVallee, a UConn fan who faithfully follows his team to its tournament games, came with his wife to Columbus.

“We just got here late last night," LaVallee says. "So we’re starting to explore a little bit. So we’re in the stage where we don’t know anything, and in a couple days we’ll be experts."

A.J. Cohen, the assistant women's basketball coach at the University of Albany, looks forward to bonding with his own players during the tournament, and possibly explore too.

“I’m gonna try. I used to coach (Amateur Athletic Union) up here in Columbus so I know a little bit about it, I’ve heard good things about it," Cohen says. "I’m originally from Pittsburgh so I’m not a big Ohio guy, but I’m gonna try to."

The Greater Columbus Sports Commission predict that 80,000 unique visitors will come into Columbus for the tournament and related events. It's estimated the tournament will bring about $20 million in economic impact.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.