- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - When it comes to big-time sporting events, modest Minnesota is doing its best to be an attention hog.

Business leaders and a pair of well-known local athletes appeared Tuesday with Gov. Mark Dayton to highlight a push to host NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in 2019 or 2020. It would come on the heels of a 2018 Super Bowl that Minnesota was recently awarded and baseball’s All-Star Game in downtown Minneapolis next month.

“When you talk about major league events, Minneapolis to me is a major league city,” said Trent Tucker, a former professional basketball player and standout at the University of Minnesota. He and the WNBA’s Lindsey Whalen were named honorary co-chairs of the bid campaign.

Boosters pushing for the marquee college basketball event think the gleaming new $1 billion stadium being built for the Minnesota Vikings is the perfect setting for the Final Four. It is being built to accommodate 70,000 basketball fans with better site lines than the Metrodome, where Duke’s squad won championships in 1992 and 2001. The new stadium is going up where the Metrodome once stood and is scheduled to open in summer 2016.

Last month, the NFL chose Minneapolis to host the Super Bowl four years from now.

Minneapolis had already been named a finalist by the NCAA for the championship basketball weekend sometime between 2017 and 2020. Minnesota officials say it makes the most sense to wait until after the Super Bowl and will tell a delegation from the NCAA as much when they come for a site visit in late summer.

A decision is expected by early November. Minneapolis is in competition with seven other cities.

Dayton said no state money is involved in the bid package and no tax law changes are being pursued.

The public operators of the stadium, which is still in the early stages of construction, say they have other big event ambitions, such as college football’s championship game and the college hockey finals. They say they can’t afford to wait to make their pitch.

“Once you do open your doors, if you want to be able to host any of these events in the first five years you have to compete now,” said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

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