Hartford has a chance to cement its reputation as the nation's hottest center of women's basketball competition, but it will take a united civic push.
The city has been prominently mentioned as a contender to host the U.S. women's national basketball team as it trains and plays exhibition games to prepare for the 2010 World Championships in the Czech Republic and then for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Although the details of the team's requirements are unclear, Chuck Steedman, the senior vice president and general manager of Northland AEG at the XL Center in Hartford, has already contacted team officials about making a bid.
Mr. Steedman worked with the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau and other Hartford businesses and organizations to land the U.S. national gymnastics championships and main world championship qualifier at the XL Center in August 2010. He has some good talking points. Because of the success of the University of Connecticut's women's team in attracting crowds, the city regularly hosts the women's Big East Championship. It has become adept at making visitors feel comfortable and offers great restaurants and attractions when they come for games.
And not far from Hartford are both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield and the place where women's basketball started, Smith College in Northampton.
The U.S. team, which is coached by UConn coach Geno Auriemma, undoubtedly will include a number of current or former Huskies. More than a half-dozen were invited to tryouts in Washington last week. USA Basketball officials can't miss the regional drawing power of a team that might include UConn stars Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Swin Cash, Renee Montgomery, Asjha Jones or Maya Moore. The strength of the Connecticut Sun women's professional team can be directly linked to the enthusiasm fans have long had for the UConn women.
Hartford starts its campaign to host the national women's team in a competitive position. Mr. Steedman and civic leaders need to build on that foundation by showing USA Basketball officials that Hartford can provide the world-class facilities that help build champions. Our fans can be counted on to deliver the support and inspiration.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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