As someone who considers ACC basketball tournament week a holiday, and as someone who has driven thousands of miles at obscene hours to venture to and fro’, I’d love to see the event in Virginia Beach. And truth is, a city official’s faux pas notwithstanding, the combination makes sense.
Not as a permanent or even frequent venue, mind you. The ACC’s core always has been, and will be, North Carolina, and with the conference’s HQ in Greensboro, N.C., that city’s coliseum is the tournament’s de facto base.
But an occasional ACC tournament at an NBA-caliber arena near the oceanfront? Why not?
Warren Harris, Virginia Beach’s director of economic development, mentioned the possibility Tuesday during a proposal to city council on a $350-million, 18,500-seat facility. He said city officials met last winter with ACC representatives to discuss the arena project.
Solicited by The Meridian Group, a marketing and public relations firm working with Virginia Beach, ACC commissioner John Swofford even provided a statement for Harris’ slide presentation.
“The ACC’s footprint will soon stretch across nine contiguous states and as we look ahead we certainly welcome quality venues to consider as host locations for our conference championships and tournaments. We have two conference members — University of Virginia and Virginia Tech — that are located within the state which would make Virginia Beach an attractive location.”
“Nine contiguous states” has been a Swofford mantra since the league voted to add Syracuse and Pittsburgh as its 13th and 14th members. Those schools arrive next year and will give the ACC a presence in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
The conference’s signature event, its men’s basketball tournament, has always been rooted in North Carolina, home to four of its schools. North Carolina State used to host in Raleigh (1954-66) before neutral sites took over, leaving Greensboro and Charlotte to share the wealth.
Since, the tournament has also traveled to Atlanta six times, Landover, Md. three, and Washington, D.C., and Tampa, Fla., once each.
The next three tournaments are booked for Greensboro, and the ACC already has closed bids for 2016-21. Orlando, Fla., home to the NBA’s Magic and Disney’s Magic Kingdom, has entered the fray, according to sources, but the most curious question is whether the conference looks north of the Mason-Dixon Line for the first time.
The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., future home of the NBA’s Nets, is contracted to stage the Atlantic 10 tournament from 2013-17, but is open thereafter. The issue there is whether the ACC would want to compete for oxygen directly with the Big East tournament at nearby Madison Square Garden.
Clearly the Newport News-based A-10, another possible tournament tenant for Virginia Beach, wasn’t deterred by competition with the Big East. Not sure how the ACC and television partner ESPN would view the dueling tournaments.
Boston’s NBA/NHL arena is another intriguing possibility. Comcast-Spectacor, the sports-and-entertainment Goliath driving the Virginia Beach proposal, owns the venue shared by the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers, but Philly is not an ACC town.
Anyway, if Virginia Beach built an arena, the soonest it could host an ACC tournament is 2022. The adjacent Convention Center would be ideal for the conference’s Fan Fest, and Dick Vitale could don a wet suit for some surfing.
During his presentation to council, Harris mistakenly called Swofford “Jim,” but the commish won’t mind if Virginia Beach cuts the ACC a sweet deal.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns, including one from Tuesday’s arena pitch.