Strong volunteer force impresses Big Ten Tournament organizers

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Organizers of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament are impressed by the turnout of volunteers in Minneapolis this week.

“We’re completely full for Big Ten — to the point that we had a waiting list,” said Andrea Graham, co-executive director of the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis.

This is the first time the city is hosting this Big Ten Tournament.

Graham said they needed to fill 430 volunteer shifts over the course of the five-day event, and all of the time slots booked up shortly after being released in early January.

“They will do anything from running our events to helping in the back of house and on the court with refreshing water or escorting band and cheer. We also have a whole group that also works directly with the teams,” Graham said.

5 EYEWITNESS News was there as a group of volunteers led Big Ten Gives Back outside the arena Thursday.

This brand new event, which is unique to Minneapolis hosting the tournament, will give fans the chance to pack more than 700 snack bags for the Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities during the games.

“It’s just a way for us to connect with our local community while we have this really great event here in the metro,” said volunteer Jillian Hiscock. “We have such great volunteers. We have such a strong culture of philanthropy. We have such great athletics and community organizations.”

With thousands of people expected to attend the tournament, organizers said volunteers play a critical role in making sure the fan experience is a positive one.

Volunteers also coached kids at Target Center in an event called Practice with a Purpose on Thursday, where Minnesota youth had a chance to shoot hoops and learn life skills such as teamwork.

Graham said the strong volunteer force in the Twin Cities could help pave the way for bringing other national events to town.

“Our community showing up to volunteer and support these events — especially because these major events really rely on the volunteer force to make them happen — it is a big, big asset when we are working on bringing events to town,” Graham said.

Volunteers noted it is also a win-win for them in being able to secure behind-the-scene access to a major sporting event while also showcasing the Twin Cities and celebrating women’s sports during Women’s History Month.

“There’s just an energy in Minnesota around women’s athletics. These are hardcore athletes putting on really, really great shows for the fans,” Hiscock said.

If you did not get to volunteer this year, you will have two chances next year when the Big Ten Tournaments come to Minneapolis for both men’s and women’s basketball.

Minnesota Sports and Events recommends signing up for their volunteer newsletter if you would like to receive information about upcoming volunteer opportunities.