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Stockton Prepares to Host Women’s NCAA Basketball Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight

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STOCKTON -- The City of Stockton is just days away from hosting a national sporting event -- the NCAA Women's basketball tournament.

We met Larry Sparks in line at the Stockton Arena Monday. The big women's basketball fan from Tracy said he is buying tickets now to make sure he gets good seats.

"The guys, they slack off a little bit. But the women, they play hard," Sparks laughed.

This is the first time the city is hosting the tournament.

"We are just watching ticket sales creep up every minute." Wes Rhea, CEO of Visit Stockton said.

Rhea said the city won the bid in 2014 to host the women's Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, and they have been preparing ever since.

They hope to mirror the slam dunk success of the men's tournament at the Golden One Center this past weekend.

"Sacramento did a fantastic job and they really led the charge here in Northern California. We expect with an event like this to see about $1.5 million to $2 million of economic impact in the Stockton Community," Rhea said.

With fans and teams coming to Stockton from all over the nation, hotels saw the need to renovate. George Kaplanis with Hilton Stockton said reservations are up.

"The hotel will be full. We'll have two teams and our guests are getting the opportunity to visit players as they come in and out of the hotel," Kaplanis said.

Meanwhile in the inside of the arena, there will be a big temperature change. To transform the arena from the Stockton heat's ice rink to a basketball court is quite a process.

"Yesterday it was ice right here. We have covered it up and removed the signage out of the arena. And today the basketball floor a lot of the risers and the carpet will go up," Rhea said.

By Thursday, the arena will be handed over to the NCAA, where organizers will make the final touches before the games.

"We got this. We couldn't be more ready for anything I think we've ever done," Rhea said.

As for Larry Sparks, he excitedly waved his tickets at us, as he drove home.

The tournament will be at the arena on March 25 and 27. The winner of the March 27 game goes to Dallas for the final four.

Tickets are available here.