BREAKING NEWS: Nearly a year after the 2020 Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Women’s Basketball Tournament had to be canceled due to the Covid-19

The “Hoops in the Heartland” tournament returns to Moline March 11-14, but a final decision about in-person fans has yet to be made.

pandemic, hope springs eternal.

On Thursday, Visit Quad Cities and the MVC announced that the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament will return to the TaxSlayer Center in Moline, for the sixth straight year. Affectionately named “Hoops in the Heartland,” the four-day event (Mar. 11-14) will showcase all 10 MVC schools as they compete for The Valley’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

“We are thrilled that the Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament will move forward this year,” said Dave Herrell, President and CEO, Visit Quad Cities. “The Conference office, their member institutions and student-athletes, and fans are incredibly important to our community.

“Hosting this signature event at the TaxSlayer Center with or without fans was imperative in 2021, and we are confident we can deliver a safe and responsible environment,” he said

Missouri State players celebrate winning the 2019 MVC tournament at the TaxSlayer Center.

Thursday. “We would like to thank the leadership at the Conference, the incredible team at the TaxSlayer Center, and the Rock Island County Health Department for their collaboration and partnership in working together to make this happen.”

The 2021 tournament will mark the 14th consecutive season in its 39-year history that the event will take place at a neutral site. The MVC is one of only seven conferences (out of 32 nationally) where the women’s basketball tournament is played at a neutral site, separate from the men’s championship (AAC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC are the others).

At this time, due to Covid-19 restrictions, ticketing information and fan capacity has not been finalized and will be announced as soon as possible.

“The MVC Women’s Basketball Tournament loves having its home at TaxSlayer Center in the Quad-Cities,” said Patty Viverito, Senior Associate Commissioner of the Missouri Valley Conference. “This year has brought many challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but we

Scott Mullen is executive director of the Taxslayer Center.

are excited for the return of our tournament following last year’s cancellation. Our conference staff has worked hard along with the TaxSlayer Center staff to ensure all necessary changes are made to ensure a safe tournament environment for our student-athletes.”

As a response to health and safety protocols, all nine games of the tournament will be treated as separate sessions, and below is the new tournament schedule:

Fans will still be able to watch all nine games of the 2021 tournament live on The Valley on ESPN (ESPN+).  Indianapolis-based Tupelo-Honey serves as the production company for the MVC postseason cham­pionship events for The Valley on ESPN — the league’s digital channel available through the ESPN App. Fans subscribe to ESPN+ for just $5.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) at ESPN.com, ESPNplus.com or on the ESPN App (mobile and connected devices).

It is also available as part of The Disney Bundle offer that gives subscribers access to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu (ad-supported) — all for just $12.99/month.

The tournament can also be followed on http://mvc-sports.com/feature/21Hoops that includes all tournament releases, bracket, live stats and ESPN+ links.

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Prior to the 2019 tournament, the MVC launched the Hoops in the Heartland app, which contains all of the latest game-day information, including special events involving teams and other promotions throughout the weekend. Download the Hoops in the Heartland app now to

Dave Herrell is president/CEO of Visit Quad Cities.

see the latest from your favorite Valley teams and follow all the tournament action by using the App link: https://hoopsintheheartland.app.link/launch

“We are incredibly excited to have the MVC Women’s Basketball Tournament be our first event in the arena since the pandemic hit,” TaxSlayer Center executive director Scott Mullen said Thursday. “Thanks to collaborative efforts with the MVC and Visit Quad Cities we will get to pick up with the same exact event that was cancelled a year ago.”

All players, coaches and MVC staff will be tested prior to the tournament and the TaxSlayer Center will be following strict Covid-19 guidelines during the tournament.

The TaxSlayer Center (1201 River Drive, Moline) was among the first arenas in the nation to earn Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation.

Under the guidance of GBAC, a Division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, the arena has implemented the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention in its facility and implemented best practices to prepare for, respond to, and recover from outbreaks and pandemics.

“The protocols we have instituted demonstrate that we have made the safety of our employees, guests and event partners a top priority,”

The TaxSlayer Center, 1201 River Drive, Moline, has not held major public events since mid-March 2020.

Mullen said.

The MVC Women’s Basketball Tournament took to the court for the first time in the Quad-Cities on March 10-13, 2016. Since that time, the Q-C has welcomed the tournament and fans to the regional destination for Hoops in the Heartland.

The tournament annually produces more than $2 million in economic impact, benefiting the area’s visitor economy and provides valuable brand exposure for the Q-C, according to Visit Quad Cities.

In addition to the event’s impact on the economy, there are several community engagement opportunities creating value and providing opportunities to showcase female student-athletes.

The MVC has seen an average of four league teams participate in postseason play in the last 21 seasons where postseason action took place, including three teams reaching postseason play in 2018-19.

Before the 2019-20 season was cut short due to Covid-19, the MVC was in position to send 5 or 6 teams to postseason play. The Valley has earned multiple NCAA Tournament bids in 12 differ­ent seasons, including two out of the last three seasons (not counting 2019-20).

For more information on the tournament, visit https://mvc-sports.com/index.aspx?path=wbball.

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.