On June 21, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced seven cities, including Portland, that qualified as finalists to host the Women’s Basketball Final Four for a 2027-2031 slot. This would be the first time Portland has hosted this event.
This provides a unique opportunity for Portland to enrich its women’s basketball scene, as the city is not represented in any of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s 12 teams. Becoming a host city for high-level college athletes would therefore be Portland’s strongest presence yet in women’s basketball. Portland was named a finalist for the 2025 and 2026 seasons, but ultimately failed to secure it. Tampa, Fla. and Phoenix, Ariz., respectively, were selected for those years.
Site visits for each of the 2027-2031 finalist locations began in August, and will continue through the end of this month. University of Portland would be the host site if Portland is chosen. In November, each finalist will give a presentation to the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee in Indiana. Several organizations will be advocating for Portland to be selected, including Sport Oregon, the Rose Quarter, Travel Portland, the University of Portland and the City of Portland.
Though Portland has never been granted the honor of hosting the Final Four, it does have an established presence in NCAA basketball. The 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball Regional was hosted in Portland, and boasted some of the highest ticket sales in the history of the event. Before the COVID-19 pandemic halted all sporting events, Portland was slated to host the Regional again in 2020, and ticket projections were even greater than the previous year. In addition, Portland has hosted several NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball events, and will be hosting The Women’s Basketball Regional in 2024 as well as the Men’s First and Second Rounds in 2026.
Despite having hosted fewer events than many of the competing cities, Portland’s past history of hosting successful NCAA events with high ticket sales are promising for our chances of being chosen. Hosting this premier event will also benefit the local economy and promote tourism. Every year, the Women’s Final Four and the associated Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Annual Convention result in an average booking of 11,000 hotel rooms, which will bolster areas such as food and dining, hospitality and many other facets of the economy.
This event could also be perfectly timed, as the WNBA has recently discussed expanding to one or two more cities by 2024, and Portland was one of a dozen cities to land a spot on the shortlist. Being selected to host the Final Four may make Portland a more attractive option to house a professional-level team. However, post-pandemic financial instability has led the WNBA to scramble for funding and investors, so it is not clear at the moment whether they will be able to follow through with their goal and support more franchises.
Though Portland prides itself on being a great city for women’s sports, with Portland Thorns FC tickets often selling as well as Portland Timbers tickets, its basketball scene remains as male-dominated as most cities. Hosting the Final Four would help Portland to augment its presence in women’s basketball, and may even be an important factor in bringing a WNBA team to the city.