BILLINGS, Mont. — The tourism arm of the city of Billings and Rocky Mountain College are hosting the next two NAIA Division I women’s basketball tournaments, the first time the tournament has been held in the western United States.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics announced Wednesday the tournaments will take place March 15-21, 2017, and March 14-20, 2018, at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.
“We are excited about our Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship finding a home in the great northwest,” NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr said in a statement. “We are confident that Visit Billings and Rocky Mountain will deliver on a first-class event that will be an outstanding experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
As the host team, Rocky Mountain College will receive an automatic berth in the 32-team tournament, which features 31 games played over six days.
“We are ecstatic about being named as the host for the 2017 and 2018 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championships,” said Bruce Parker, Rocky’s athletic director. “We are blessed to live in a wonderful community that supports championship-level events. Rocky and the city of Billings are looking forward to making this an unforgettable experience for the student-athletes, coaches, officials and fans.”
The tournament was held in Independence, Missouri, in 2015 and 2016. Four Frontier Conference teams — Carroll College, Montana State-Northern, University of Great Falls and Lewis-Clark State — were in last year’s field.
Visit Billings executive director Alex Tyson told The Billings Gazette that the city and Rocky had unsuccessfully bid on the tournament in 2014. For this bid, they moved the venue from Rocky Mountain College to MetraPark.
Jackson, Tennessee, hosted the tournament from 1990-2011. Frankfort, Kentucky, hosted over the next three years. Earlier hosts were Kansas City, where the NAIA is based, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.