The Independence Tourism Department and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) are excited to announce that the Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship is coming home to the Kansas City area. The City of Independence, Mo., will serve as the official host of the 2015 and 2016 national championships, with assistance from William Woods University.
“This has been in the works for several months,” Jason Vittone, WWU athletic director, said. “It is now official and we are very excited about it.”
The championship events will be held at the Independence Events Center in Independence, Mo., from March 18 – 24, 2015 and March 16 – 22, 2016, which will be the 35th and 36th annual events, respectively.
The NAIA has sponsored the 32-team, single-elimination championship tournament since 1981, when its inaugural championship was held in Kansas City, Mo. The City of Fountains was home to this event from 1981-83 and again from 1986-89. Currently, 102 institutions sponsor the sport of Division I women’s basketball. For a complete list of participating schools, go to NAIA.org and click on women’s basketball.
“We are extremely excited to bring the Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship to the Independence Events Center!” said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. “We are very happy to be able to provide an atmosphere where these student-athletes and administrators will have a great championship experience, and where fans can come to Kansas City for NAIA basketball for both genders.”
The NAIA national office is headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., with the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship taking place at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City. The 78th and 79th annual men’s events will take place at the same time as the women’s basketball championships in 2015 and 2016. Independence is roughly 15 miles from the site of the Division I men’s basketball championship.
“The storied NAIA men’s basketball tournament has been a tradition in the Kansas City area for more than 75 years,” said Cori Day, Director of Independence Tourism. “We are happy to welcome the NAIA women’s basketball championship home for 2015 and 2016.”
William Woods will receive the automatic “host berth” in the field of 32 teams for the 2015 and 2016 events. The Owls are members of the American Midwest Conference and sponsor 13 varsity sports.
“We were very excited and honored when we were approached by the Independence Tourism Department to serve as the host school for the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship,” said Vittone. “William Woods is looking forward to building a strong relationship with the city of Independence and the NAIA.”
The Independence Events Center (IEC) has hosted numerous national, collegiate and youth championships: MSHSAA (Missouri State High School Activities Association), Collegiate Club Hockey (University of Missouri vs. University of Kansas) Skate KC Figure Skating Competition. The IEC also serves as the home of the Missouri Mavericks of the Central Hockey League and the Missouri Comets of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
It was recently announced that the Heartland Figure Skating Club and the Kansas City Figure Skating Club were awarded the 2016 Southwestern Regional Championships that will take place at the Independence Events Center.
“The Independence Events Center is an impressive facility,” added Vittone. “It will make for a fantastic venue for the National Championship. This is certainly a great opportunity for our university. We look forward to assisting the Independence Tourism Department to make this a memorable experience for all the visiting teams and fans.”
Previous host cities for the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships have included most recently Frankfort, Ky., and Jackson, Tenn. The 2014 national champion Oklahoma City Stars captured its seventh title on March 25 after an 80-76 victory against Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.). The Stars now are tied for the most all-time national championships.