While the most iconic NCAA Championships have experienced success through the popularity of the championships, several of the NCAA’s championships have built their brand and legacy through establishing a consistent home for the event. However, the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics National Championship, like many other NCAA championships, didn’t have a permanent, neutral-site home, until now.
The growth the sport of gymnastics has seen over the past few years has come with the opportunity to take the championship to the next level. In partnership with Fort Worth Sports Commission, Knight Eady capitalized on the vision of creating an enhanced experience while building the event’s home at a true neutral-site.
Since 2018 after Knight Eady successfully won multiple bid cycles, the championship will call Fort Worth home through 2026. The bid was successfully awarded after our team worked diligently to identify the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex as the best neutral-site location that checked several boxes; Texas doesn’t have any Division I women’s gymnastics programs, the area is rich with youth gymnastics talent and major programs NCAA programs have at least one student-athlete from the area on their roster, the DFW Metroplex is centrally located with two major airports and the new Dickie’s Arena provides the perfect arena to host a championship-level event.
Knight Eady, along with its partners at Texas Woman’s University and Fort Worth Sports Commission, conceptualized, developed and executed all aspects of the championship including marketing, public relations, ticketing, event management, media relations, budgeting, and all other host responsibilities for the championship. In 2019, the championship set records for final session attendance (8,595) and distanced itself from all other neutral sites in the history of the championship with its 22,107 in total attendance over three sessions.
In 2021, the event made history again after the final championship session was aired on ABC and was the most-viewed gymnastics championship on ESPN networks ever, averaging 808,000 viewers, a 510 percent increase over the 2019 final on ESPNU. By the conclusion of the 2023 championship, those numbers were old news. The 2023 championship broke 1.02 million viewers, generating a 10 percent increase year-over-year, making the finals the most-watched live college gymnastics telecast ever on ESPN platforms and most watched on any network since 2007.
Seeing this project through from the earliest brainstorming phase to execution across multiple years has been a rewarding and exciting experience for everyone involved on the project at Knight Eady. The NCAA and the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics committee should be commended for stepping out and trusting a new idea, as opposed to maintaining the status quo. The selection of a strategic neutral site, increased coverage from its broadcast partner ESPN, and the growth of the student-athletes’ brands through social media have all contributed to the tremendous growth of the sport in a relatively short time. The combination of creativity during site selection and effective event management by Knight Eady created the perfect situation for the NCAA and its women’s gymnastics member institutions to host the championship they all deserve.