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Jamie Adams

The NAIA's Jamie Adams announces that the Division I Women's Basketball National Championships will be in Billings for 2017 and 2018.

BOB ZELLAR, Gazette Staff

Jamie Adams doesn’t need much time to make an impact.

Her visit to Billings in mid-August lasted 31 hours.

Her return on Wednesday was far less than that.

But no less important.

Adams, the NAIA Associate Director of Championship Events, announced that Billings was awarded the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championships for 2017 and 2018.

The announcement came during an early afternoon press conference at Rimrock Auto Arena, the site of the tournament.

The NAIA National Tournament will bring 31 teams to Billings. Rocky Mountain College receives an automatic berth being the host school. The Battlin’ Bears last played in the tournament in 1988.

The 2017 tournament will be March 15-21, while the 2018 tournament will be March 14-20.

The Billings bid was a collaborative effort between Visit Billings and Rocky Mountain College.

“This was a tremendous group effort,” said Bruce Parker, the Battlin’ Bears athletic director. “We want to make this a great experience for the student-athletes and their fans so they want to come back every year.”

Adams, along with Alan Grosbach of the NAIA, toured Billings in August, checking Rimrock Auto Arena, hotel space and possible practice venues for visiting teams.

The tour was put together by Alex Tyson, the executive director of Visit Billings and one of the driving forces to bring the tournament to Montana’s largest city.

“From the start, it was the energy this group brought,” said Adams of the August visit. “It was the energy the community as a whole brought to this. All the aspects were showcased. Billings was able to bring everything in one package.

“The energy this team has shown through the entire experience has been very exciting. We are excited to be working with Rocky Mountain College, the Frontier Conference and Visit Billings to provide a championship experience for our student-athletes.”

Billings had originally bid for the tournament in 2014 but it was awarded to Independence, Mo. The tournament became available when Independence declined to pick up the option to host again.

Montana has hosted NAIA national events 11 times. The most recent was in 2014 when the NAIA wrestling national championships were finishing a three-year run in Great Falls.

The NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships were held at the same MetraPark facility in Billings, 1968-1972. This is the first time a basketball championship will be in Montana.

The Rocky men’s basketball team won the NAIA Division I title in 2009, while the Montana State-Northern women won the Division II national basketball championship in 1993.

Last year, four teams from the Frontier Conference – Carroll College, the University of Great Falls, MSU-Northern and Lewis-Clark State – played in the national tournament.

There are 94 teams at the NAIA Division I level for women.

The Red Lion Hotel and Convention Center is the primary sponsor of the tournament, along with serving as the headquarters for NAIA officials. The hotel will host the Athlete’s Banquet prior to the event.

“Now the work begins,” said Parker, scanning the crowd on Wednesday.

“Do I have any volunteers?”