A third path

Kate Mortenson
Kate Mortenson. Photo by Tracy Walsh

Whoever hired Kate Mortenson to be the president and CEO of the 2019 Final Four Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee was a very insightful person indeed.

On the surface, she might seem like a curious choice: Mortenson, a longtime philanthropist and consultant focused on nonprofits, wasn’t necessarily the most likely pick for such a sporty, commerce-driven role.

“Usually, it’s someone from the world of athletics or someone with a background in travel and tourism,” Mortenson, our Cover Star this month, said. “Going with me was a third path — choosing someone whose roots are in community development.”

But think about it: What better mindset could there be when bringing a huge NCAA event to town? Don’t we, in fact, need someone who has an eye for the greater good?

After all, the publicly funded Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority will spend an estimated $10 million on the event, quite a bit more than the $627,000 it spent to host the Super Bowl in 2018.

The tax-paying public — especially those who don’t follow college basketball — might be asking: What’s in it for us?

Well, of course, there’s our role in the national tourism economy.

What else? Well, beyond that impact — which even the Star Tribune editorial board has declared “worth it” — there’s a bevy of community events, including 3,000 free basketballs and T-shirts for kids, free concerts and even free viewings of the teams’ final practices.

But the two, somewhat unsung, signature pieces of all of this — the things that have Mortenson’s name written all over them — are far more community minded: There’s the year-long, statewide initiative called Read to the Final Four in which students from 250 schools have read more than 4 million minutes!

If that weren’t enough, the local organizing committee under Mortenson’s leadership has also coordinated a renovation of the North Commons Rec Center in North Minneapolis, which will involve upgrades to the park’s indoor basketball facilities. Dubbed the Men’s Final Four Legacy Project, the refurbished center will be unveiled just prior to the Final Four. And that’s something that will live on long after the final buzzer rings.

Though Mortenson is only 52 — and admittedly on the younger end of our Good Age spectrum — it’s exciting to see her career move into its second act.

After she’s had a bit of a rest, I wonder what she’ll do next!