More than 20,000 people packed Amalie Arena Sunday night as Baylor beat Notre Dame to become the new champions in Division I women's basketball.
The Women's Final Four attracted fans from all over. That includes supporters of the four teams in the tournament, and folks who just love college basketball, like Mary Jarrell of New Hampshire and Gretchen Heilemann of Maine. They were rooting for Notre Dame.
Along with some other friends, they've been attending the Women's Final Four for years. But it was their first time in Tampa.
“Everyone is very friendly,” Heilemann said. “We haven't had any trouble getting around. When we look lost, people help us. It's a very nice place to be.”
Inside the Tampa Convention Center, kids got basketball tips on a makeshift court. Sales reps handed out free samples of pizza and soda. Fans gathered around the NCAA trophy. Volunteers in bright orange shirts were on hand to help take pictures. “You have to get up close to get the etching. That's the tough part,“ one of the volunteers said.
Outside, the Riverwalk is usually busy with joggers and bikers on the weekend. But on Sunday afternoon, police cleared it off to make way for hundreds of children bouncing basketballs as they raced from Curtis Hixson Park to Amalie Arena.
Baylor's pep squad was on the sidelines. Christie Traylor traveled from Dallas to support Baylor and her daughter, who is a cheerleader.
“It means a lot to the players and the coaches,” Traylor said of the Lady Bears’ tournament appearance. “We've got invested in a kid at Baylor, so we're excited to be here and cheer them on.”
As the Women's Final Four wraps up, Tampa is getting ready to host another major sporting event. Stanley Cup playoffs begin Wednesday.