Sears Centre lands Big 10 women's basketball tourney

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany confirmed Sunday that the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates will host the conference's women's hoops tournament in 2013 and 2015.

“Our goal was to embrace this event from start to finish,” Sears Centre General Manager Ben Gibbs said after learning of the decision. “I think one of the reasons they liked us is that we're very excited to have the event. For us, this is our Super Bowl. We're going to roll out the red carpet for the athletes, the coaches, the fans.”

Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis will host both the men's and women's tournaments in 2014 and 2016. The United Center will host the men's tournaments in 2013 and 2015. Delany said there's a chance both men's and women's tournaments will be played at the same time in Chicago and Hoffman Estates in mid-March.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten shut out Soldier Field from its football title game, awarding Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis exclusive rights from 2012 to 2015.

The women's tournament will bring about a week's worth of events to the Northwest suburbs. Outdoor festivals with food and music are part of the Sears Centre plan.

“I imagine we'll sit down in conference again and go through everything we proposed and make sure we're all on the same page,” Gibbs said. “The planning starts on Monday.”

Gibbs made a 25-minute presentation to Big Ten officials last month. Even though he said it went well, there was concern the conference was merely using the pitch as leverage when negotiating an extension with Indianapolis officials. Conseco has hosted the women's tournament since 2002.

The village of Hoffman Estates owns the 11,000-seat Sears Centre arena off the Jane Addams Tollway and Route 59. Global Spectrum, a division of Comcast, runs the facility.

Gibbs suggested that affiliation made a difference, as Comcast is able to advertise on its television channels, including NBC. They also have the option of messaging its cable subscribers about the tournament.

“That's a pretty powerful tool,” Gibbs said.

Securing the women's tournament gives officials another opportunity to showcase the arena, Gibbs added. There are about 400,000 Big Ten alumni living in the Chicago area.