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A-10 Women’s Basketball Championship breaking in new Henrico venue

The Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Championship started Wednesday with games held at the recently opened Henrico Sports & Events Center.

Capital News Service

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By Ryan Carpenter

The Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Championship started Wednesday with games held at the recently opened Henrico Sports & Events Center.

The tournament is back in the Richmond area after two years at Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware. The last local venue to host it was Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center, in spring 2021.

This will be the first major sporting event the Henrico Sports & Events Center has hosted since opening in December last year.

The event is in the backyard of two top-seeded A-10 programs, the University of Richmond (No. 1) and VCU (No. 2). The venue is not too far a drive from other schools such George Mason, George Washington University and conference members in Pennsylvania, according to Candy Cage, the A-10 associate commissioner.

There is a lot of excitement from the league about the tournament coming back to Richmond, Cage said. Henrico community leaders reached out to the A-10 about hosting the championship when plans to build the venue came about, according to Cage.

“They wanted something unique and special to … gain excitement for their new facility and we were looking for a new venue,” Cage said.

The venue features a multi-court set up and can also convert into a one court, 3,500 seat arena for events.

The A-10 wanted an avenue that could provide the “best experience” for student athletes and the “beautiful facility” was exactly that, according to Cage.

A media day was hosted pre-season at the facility. The excitement from the league and teams started to grow after they toured the facilities, Cage said.

“I think the first thing that does come to mind is just the overall excitement in the community for this event,” said Dennis Bickmeier, executive director of the Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority.

It took a lot of hard work to land the A-10 championship and there is a lot of excitement for the opportunity, according to Bickmeier.

Because Richmond is in the “footprint of the conference” and also near other fan bases, it could help draw a big crowd,according to Bickmeier.

“It’s hard to put a number on it right now but here’s what I’ve been telling a lot of people: Women’s basketball is on this tremendous trajectory, you know, from a fan standpoint, from a playing standpoint, there’s a lot of eyeballs on women’s basketball,” Bickmeier said.

VCU recently set a new record with 6,054 in attendance at the final game of the season. Average attendance per game pre-pandemic was 990 people, according to 2018-2019 NCAA statistics.

The VCU team has generated a lot of fans and wins recently. They set a new record for most regular season wins at 26, and tied the record for most wins in program history in a season, according to VCU Athletics. Head coach Beth O’Boyle recently became the winningest coach in the program’s history, with 168 wins.

University of Richmond had its own firsts this year, clinching its first A-10 regular season title and earning the conference top seed. Head coach Aaron Russell was named A-10 Coach of the Year, and helped lead the team to a 26-5 season — tying the program’s record for wins, according to the university’s athletic department.

The VCU women’s basketball team is excited to play in their home city, according to Evan Nicely, the assistant athletic director for creative services for women’s basketball, field hockey and lacrosse teams.

“Anytime you get a chance to compete for a championship in your own backyard is an incredible opportunity,” Nicely said.

The proximity means the boisterous Peppas pep band and VCU cheerleaders will help bring a home game atmosphere for the team as they look to win the championship, according to Nicely.

The tournament runs March 6-10. Fourteen women’s basketball teams are seeking the A-10 championship title. Davidson College will not play any post-season games due to team injuries, according to its athletic department.

Virginia teams George Mason, University of Richmond and VCU play their first games on Friday, March 8.

Adult tickets are $15 and youth and senior tickets are $12 for first round games through the semifinals. Championship game tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and youth. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.

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