Fans are flocking to bars that show only women’s sports on their TVs

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MINNEAPOLIS — Long lines are expected this week outside A Bar of Their Own, where the 12 televisions will be screening March Madness. Only women’s March Madness.

And when the NCAA women’s basketball tournament isn’t monopolizing the airwaves, the bar’s TVs will blast women’s NCAA softball, women’s professional hockey and women’s Olympic qualifiers, among many other sports.

Capturing a boom in women’s sports exemplified by the University of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, bars showcasing only women’s sports are having a marquee moment, one that’s building into a trend.

“I just knew that, like me, there were lots of women’s sports fans in Minneapolis and in the surrounding area that have tried for years to find women’s sports on TV and not get them,” said Jillian Hiscock, who this month opened A Bar of Their Own, a riff on the title of the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own,” about the first female professional baseball league.

Jillian Hiscock, a former college recruiter who opened A Bar of Their Own, a riff on the title of the 1992 movie "A League of Their Own" about the first female professional baseball league.
Jillian Hiscock opened A Bar of Their Own this month in Minneapolis.NBC News

Hiscock, a former college student recruiter, said her “aha moment” came in 2022 when the University of Minnesota’s softball team was in the national tournament and ESPN was airing it but she couldn’t find a bar showing the game. 

“I was just so frustrated in that moment that for these athletes that had worked so hard to get to this level of competition that a place 2 miles from their campus wasn’t highlighting them,” Hiscock said. 

She said hers is the first bar in the Midwest to focus solely on women’s sports, welcoming customers from budding fans to “girl dads” to professional athletes.

Clair DeGeorge, a player for Minnesota of the Professional Women’s Hockey League; rugby Olympian Kathryn Johnson; five-time WNBA champion Rebekkah Brunson; and Diamond Miller, a forward on the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, have all stopped by to sign the bar’s Athlete Wall of Fame.

A Bar of Their Own is the first bar in the Midwest to focus solely on women’s sports.
A Bar of Their Own in Minneapolis focuses solely on women’s sports.NBC News

DeGeorge called the women’s sports bar movement a “testament to the hard work of women,” and Miller said, “They’re pushing the boundaries to grow and develop women’s sports.”

Team jerseys, scarves and game balls line the bar’s walls, along with other paraphernalia marking standout moments in the history of women’s sports. Wheaties even donated some of its classic cereal boxes featuring female champions.

Brunson praised A Bar of Their Own for continuing to “shed light on the enthusiasm that people have when it comes to women’s sports.”

Decked out in University of South Carolina gear, alumna and former student-athlete Em Harding is a regular.

“I think this is, like, our eighth time here,” she said, laughing. “I still can’t believe that this is here, this exists.”

Josh Cleveland, the father of two girls, said sports have always been a big part of his life, and he now has a place to share it with them in a communal setting among other like-minded fans. 

“To see them have a place where they can go and see sports elevated for women is important,” he said. “I think it makes us all better.”

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A Bar of Their Own is the first bar in the Midwest to focus solely on women’s sports.
A Bar of Their Own is the first bar in the Midwest to focus solely on women’s sports, according to owner Jillian Hiscock.NBC News

Nancy St. Germaine, who owns a construction company, said she’s drawn to the bar’s sense of community.

“As a woman in a rare field, I think it’s huge to be able to be in a space where you feel empowered, you feel acknowledged, you feel seen,” she said.

Hiscock said she was inspired by The Sports Bra in Portland, Oregon, which opened in 2022. Its founder, Jenny Nguyen, used her personal savings and money raised through a Kickstarter campaign to open the 40-seat bar, an investment that paid off when it raked in more than $1 million its first year.

“I don’t see a ceiling for it any time soon,” Nguyen said of women’s sports.

The WNBA, the National Women’s Soccer League and collegiate sports all clocked record attendance last year, according to a report from the Wasserman Collective, a company that tracks women’s sports. 

More than 92,000 people packed a Nebraska volleyball match in August, setting a world record for attendance at a women’s sporting event, according to the university.

And then there’s Clark, whose effortless 3-pointers are helping drive massive spikes in viewership of women’s college basketball, which is up 60% across all national networks, according to Michael Mulvihill, president of insights and analytics at Fox Sports.

A recent poll by Seton Hall University in New Jersey found that Clark is the best-known college basketball player in the country, man or woman.

A Bar of Their Own is the first bar in the Midwest to focus solely on women’s sports.
A Bar of Their Own is the first bar in the Midwest to focus solely on women’s sports.NBC News

“We have been told as athletes forever that we aren’t as marketable, exciting to watch, and that’s why we don’t get airtime,” said Johnson, who played for the U.S. Olympic rugby sevens team in 2016. “But as soon as we are given some support, we outshine some of the men’s programs.”

Still, women’s sports accounted for just 15% of sports coverage in 2022, Wasserman found.

Hiscock said, “There’s all these sports that people just haven’t had exposure to, because it’s really hard to be a casual women’s sports fan.”

Hiscock said she has received several phone calls from people hoping to open similar businesses in other parts of the country, including Lauren Louise and Allison Zerkle, who plan to open Althea’s, inspired by the groundbreaking professional golfer and tennis player Althea Gibson, in New York City this fall.

“Especially with the rapid growth of women’s sports, attendance and viewership, it’s more important now than ever to be able to provide these spaces for our community,” Louise said.



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