HARTFORD, CT – Connecticut’s Capital City is ready to welcome this week’s 2013 BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Championship Presented by American Eagle Outfitters. The XL Center, the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau (CTCSB) [the former Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau] and the CTCSB’s Connecticut Sports Commission are working to make sure that visitors have the best possible experience while in the city. The XL Center and the City of Hartford are proud to again host the nation’s largest Division I conference from Friday, March 8 to Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

This is the tenth consecutive year that the BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Championship will be held in Hartford, and this year a celebration is planned when the 1 millionth Championship fan enters the XL Center Coliseum. All 15 BIG EAST teams will play in the Championship, with 14 games played in five days. Over the past decade, more people have attended this event than any other women’s basketball conference in the nation.

The “HOOPLA” will begin when tens of thousands of women’s basketball fans begin arriving for the Championship. Championship organizers expect 40,000 attendees with a projected economic impact to the Greater Hartford region of over $2.1 million. Close to 3,000 room nights already have been booked by officials, athletes, cheerleaders and bands, and alumni groups from each school, with more being reserved by fans. Championship participants will be staying at more than a dozen Hartford-area hotels.

The Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau contributed to the development of a series of innovative on-line marketing and communication efforts and has been promoting the Championship and providing updates to participating schools and supporters. Working with the BIG EAST and the XL Center, the CTCSB contributed to the official championship website at www.bigeast.org/wbb – the primary online communications resource for the BIG EAST, XL Center and other local partners – to provide advance e-information to schools and fans about the games, event programming, fan events and housing. Monthly newsletter blasts featuring Restaurant and Attractions specials have been sent via eblasts to students, staff and fans of BIG EAST Women’s Basketball, with offers to help with restaurant reservations. In addition, the XL Center worked with BIG EAST staff to send e-campaign information to alumni offices at all 15 schools to promote hosting of alumni parties during the Championship.

Championship organizers are focused on promoting Hartford as a “destination” that offers a variety of leisure opportunities for the thousands who are making plans to travel here. The goal is to encourage them to book longer stays at area hotels and enjoy more of the region’s restaurants and attractions. Volunteers from all across the state have stepped forward to set up and staff different events to make the Championship experience a memorable one!

NEW FAN ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS include opportunities to meet the All-American Red Heads – the 2012 Hall of Fame Inductees on Friday, March 8, Saturday, March 9 and Monday, March 11 in the FanFest area in the Atrium of the XL Center. On Sunday, March 10 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Two Time Olympic Gold Medalist, Three Time WNBA Champion, Five Time WNBA All-Star, Two Time WNBA All-Star MVP and  UCONN Alumna Swin Cash will autograph copies of her first book, “Humble Journey: More Precious Than Gold”. For the second year in a row, a “Chalk Talk” panel of individuals who helped to shape and grow women’s basketball will be held – that “sold out” talk takes place on Monday, March 11.

In order to ensure that the festive “HOOPLA” continues the duration of the Championship, event organizers and the Hartford Hospitality Task Force – which includes the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau and its Connecticut Sports Commission, MetroHartford Alliance, the BID, the Hartford Parking Authority, and many other organizations and businesses – is working on a variety of activities and promotions to please the fans:

•    BIG EAST Fan Guide with star shuttle map, event locations/details, available at the XL Center, the Greater Hartford Welcome Center at 100 Pearl Street in Hartford, and participating hotels throughout the city;
•    2013 Fan Fest Activities at the XL Center: Enter to win a game-used autographed basketball by your favorite BIG EAST team in the Hallway of Champions; Northwestern Mutual Pop-a-Shot in the Atrium; Get your photo taken with the BIG EAST Trophy and team mascots in the Nutmeg Trophy Room; visit Spirit Central for free school-colored beads, face-painting, and giveaways for fans to sport their team’s colors; and relax in the Hoopla Hangout Café/Lounge;
•    An “Information Nation” information booth at the XL Center will feature a variety of brochures and be staffed by the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau, the XL Center and community volunteers. In addition, the Greater Hartford Welcome Center at 100 Pearl Street will welcome Championship fans on Friday, Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
•    A daily newsletter, “BIG EAST Beat” distributed by the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau at hotels and Information Nation, detailing daily events, provide brackets and scheduling information. A supplemental newsletter, “BIG EAST Eat”, will outline restaurant specials;
•    Discounts will be offered at a number of Downtown restaurants for everyone displaying a BIG EAST ticket stub;
•    Comcast Coliseum Club in the XL Center is open to everyone with a ticket stub. Reservations strongly recommended by calling (860) 241-4319 to make yours;
•    Banners and Signage, welcoming fans posted on Trumbull Street and in front of the XL Center and added signage inside the XL Center;
•    Championship Welcome Posters and Banners posted in Downtown shops and restaurants, and tent cards will be provided to eateries to place on tables;
•    Many Downtown Parking Garages and Surface Lots offering Special Event parking rates. Morgan Street Garage will offer $4 daily parking with a ticket stub;
•    Hartford’s Star Shuttle buses will extend hours (operated by CT Transit): Friday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Monday 7 a.m. until 11 p.m.; and
•    Outdoor Marquee at the XL Center welcoming fans and teams.

Fans attending Saturday’s games also can enjoy the 42th Annual Greater Hartford St. Patrick's Day Parade through Downtown Hartford. The parade steps off at 11 a.m. on Capitol Avenue near the Connecticut State Capitol Building. For more information, visit www.irishamericanparade.com HARTFORD READY TO HOST ITS 10TH BIG EAST WOMEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP...3

Friday, March 8 through Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
Note: Game times within sessions subject to change due to television coverage; All times are Eastern.

Friday, March 8 - First Round (BIGEAST.tv)
Game 1 4 p.m. #12 Seed vs. #13 Seed
Game 2 6 p.m. #10 Seed vs. #15 Seed
Game 3 8 p.m. #11 Seed vs. #14 Seed

Saturday, March 9 - Second Round (BIG EAST Network, BIGEAST.tv, and SNY)
Game 4 12 Noon #5 Seed vs. TBD
Game 5 2 p.m. #8 Seed vs. #9 Seed
Game 6 6 p.m. #7 Seed vs. TBD
Game 7 8 p.m. #6 Seed vs. TBD

Sunday, March 10 - Quarterfinals (ESPNU, BIG EAST Network,)
Game 8 12 Noon #4 Seed vs. TBD
Game 9 2 p.m. #1 Seed vs. TBD
Game 10 6 p.m. #2 Seed vs. TBD
Game 11 8 p.m. #3 Seed vs. TBD

Monday, March 11 - Semifinals (ESPNU)
Game 12 6 p.m. TBD vs. TBD
Game 13 8 p.m. TBD vs. TBD

Tuesday, March 12 - Championship (ESPN)
Game 14 7 p.m. Game 12 winner vs. Game 13 winner

BE.tv is streamed online at www.BIGEAST.tv; BIG EAST Network is broadcast via regional sports networks in BIG EAST markets; SNY is SportsNet New York, the flagship station for the BIG EAST Game of the Week during the regular season.

TICKETS: All-Session Package (for all 14 games) is only $99 - the same price as last year. Tickets for individual sessions also are available. Purchase at Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000, at www.xlcenter.com or www.ticketmaster.com, and at all Ticketmaster outlets - including Macy's at Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester, Conn. and Westfarms Mall in West Hartford, Conn. Tickets can also be purchased at the XL Center ticket office, weekdays: 12 Noon-5 p.m. For weekend events, the box office will open four hours prior to the start of an event. All ticket purchases are subject to additional convenience fees. For group sales (10 or more) information and discounts, contact the XL Center at (860) 548-2000. For general fan information about the Championship, visit www.bigeast.org/wbb.

The BIG EAST is the largest and most diverse Division I conference in the country. It was formed in 1979 and represents the athletic interests of 15 member institutions including the University of Cincinnati, University of Connecticut, DePaul University, Georgetown University, University of Louisville, Marquette University, University of Notre Dame, University of Pittsburgh, Providence College, Rutgers University, St. John's University, Seton Hall University, University of South Florida, Syracuse University, and Villanova University. The BIG EAST Conference has captured 32 national championships in six different sports and is a founding member of the Bowl Championship Series. For more information on the Conference and its membership, please visit www.bigeast.org.