Intersport’s 3X3U basketball tournament to hit the mall at Final Four in Minneapolis
Chicago-based Intersport launched a new 3-on-3 basketball event last year at the men’s Final Four and now the agency says it’s ready for a bigger stage. It doesn’t get much bigger than Mall of America in Minneapolis.
The 3X3U tournament, title-sponsored by Dos Equis and set for April 5-7, is part of Intersport’s annual run of events in the market of the Final Four. The dunk contest and 3-point shootout have been around for 20-plus years and have flourished as events that feed off the Final Four energy, even though Intersport runs them independently from the NCAA.
The 3X3U, as Intersport calls it, presented an opportunity last year to ride the wave of momentum associated with 3-on-3 basketball by creating 32 teams, one for each Division I conference. It offered $100,000 in prize money for college players whose eligibility had expired — $50,000 went to last year’s winners from the Big Ten.
Prize money for this year’s event is increasing to $150,000, with $100,000 going to the winning team.
Taking this year’s event to Mall of America will represent a significant step up from the gym at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio last year. The mall, which opened in 1992, is the largest in the country by number of stores and was the first of what’s now called “destination malls,” meaning the sprawling complexes — Mall of America is more than 5 million square feet and has its own zip code — that are home to events and activities beyond shopping.
As Intersport inspected a number of Division II and III gyms around the Twin Cities, they kept coming back to the mall as a unique venue for its 3-on-3 event, which plays out over three days on Final Four weekend. The dunk and 3-point contests will be at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
“The mall just kept rising to the top of the list,” said Drew Russell, Intersport’s executive vice president of properties and media assets. “We think it’s going to give it even more of a ‘wow’ factor. It’ll be a cool spectacle for this kind of event.”
The last live sporting event to be televised from the mall is believed to be WCW’s “Monday Nitro” featuring Hulk Hogan in 1995. Early round 3X3U games will stream on Twitter Live, while ESPN2 will carry the semifinals, consolation and championship games on the Sunday between the NCAA’s semifinals and finals.
The 3X3U halfcourt will be set up in the mall’s rotunda, which will enable fans as high as four floors up to look down onto the court. The mall’s wealth of square footage also will enable Intersport to build two more courts where players can warm up, a players’ lounge and locker room.
In addition to Dos Equis, sponsors will include Hooters, Old El Paso and Rocket Mortgage. Hooters’ only Minneapolis location just happens to be in the mall.
Each of the 32 Division I conferences have an opportunity to field a 3X3U team for this FIBA-sanctioned event.
This year, the winners will receive an automatic bid to USA Basketball’s 3-on-3 championship in May.