TAMPA – College hockey in Tampa?
Once, that concept would raise eyebrows.
But Wednesday afternoon, when Tampa was awarded the 2016 Frozen Four college hockey championships by the NCAA, it wasn't considered a major surprise.
“You could always measure an event's success based on whether or not it comes back,'' Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director Rob Higgins said.
When the Frozen Four first visited the Forum in downtown Tampa during 2012, it drew rave reviews from athletes, coaches and loyal fans who attend the event annually. Tampa was in a field of 10 cities for four Frozen Four events (2015-18) – with nine others considered traditional hockey hotbeds – but the event is coming South once more.
Tampa's Frozen Four was set for April 7 and 9, 2016.
Boston (2015), Chicago (2017) and St. Paul, Minn. (2018) also were selected. Tampa did not bid on the 2015 event because it is hosting the NCAA women's basketball Final Four that March.
Finalists not selected were Brooklyn, N.Y.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.
The University of Wisconsin will serve as the Frozen Four's 2016 host institution. In 2012, when Boston College won the championship at the Forum in a field that included Ferris State, Union College and Minnesota, the host institution was Alabama-Huntsville.
Higgins said the Tampa delegation has had its eye on hosting another Frozen Four. So much so that a Tampa group attended last season's event in Pittsburgh for planning purposes.
“We didn't have one on deck, but we still took a lot of notes, took a lot of pictures and talked to a lot of fans,'' Higgins said. “We tried to treat (2012) as an audition for the future. Our priority is the student-athlete experience and we look forward to putting on the best show possible for this great event.''
Additionally, the Tampa Bay area was awarded six other NCAA championship events, including the 2018 Track and Field Regional, which will be held at the University of South Florida from May 24-26. Higgins said that event should generate approximately 6,000 hotel room nights and will be another boon for the hospitality industry.
“It's such a great meet and we're looking forward to hosting it in a first-class manner,'' USF track and field coach Warren Bye said.
Meanwhile, the University of Tampa was selected host institution for four NCAA Division II championship events, including volleyball in 2015 at the Bob Martinez Athletics Center, track and field in 2016 and 2017 at IMG Academy and women's lacrosse in 2018 at the Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex.
Saint Leo University was picked as host institution for the 2016 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships at the Abbey Course. Saint Leo also will host cross-country regional events in 2015 and 2016.