Beyond the ACCtion: The ACC Men's Tournament: Rich History, Fresh Opportunity

 

This week’s future site announcements a reflection of conference’s new look and its storied tradition

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament officially plunged into uncharted waters late Wednesday morning.

A little over 24 hours later, it returned to familiar turf.

Wednesday brought confirmation that the tournament will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2017 and 2018.

“We talked with our coaches last year at our spring meeting, and it was evident that they had a very high level of interest in playing our tournament in New York periodically,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “Our athletic directors felt the same way; it was just a matter of finding something that was workable and available.”

The Brooklyn dates, which will follow 2016 ACC Tournament at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., left some traditionalists pondering the future status of the Greensboro Coliseum, which has hosted the tournament a record 25 times in its 61-year history and is set to host again in 2015. And what about Charlotte, a 12-time host that has produced its own share of unforgettable tournament moments?

The answer came with Thursday’s announcement that the tournament will be played at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena in 2019 and return to the Greensboro Coliseum in 2020.

“Some of the greatest chapters of ACC Tournament’s 61-year history have been written in these two cities, and we are proud to continue that tradition in Charlotte and Greensboro,” Swofford said.

There was never reason to believe that tradition would not continue.

While Greensboro is viewed by many long-time observers as the tournament standard bearer, 1971 through 1975 remains the only period in which the city has hosted the tournament for more than four consecutive years at any juncture. The tournament was played elsewhere for six seasons from 1989 through 1994, and was also held outside the Gate City four consecutive years between 1999 and 2002.

But it returned on each occasion, and with good reason.

“One thing you see in Greensboro, and in Charlotte as well, is tremendous volunteerism and hospitality,” Swofford said. “There is a ‘people factor’ in both of these cities that is just tremendous. Our schools feel it, our players feel it, our coaches feel it and our fans feel it. That was evident this year (during the 2014 tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum) to our new schools that were here for the first time.”

The Greensboro Coliseum was the first non-campus venue to host the ACC Tournament in 1967. Constant improvements and innovations have kept the venue competitive with newer facilities, including a $24 million in renovation project that remains ongoing and has greatly enhanced the facility over the last two years.

“(The ACC Tournament) has always driven us to maintain our facilities in a state-of-the-art condition,” said Matt Brown, managing director of the Greensboro Coliseum.  “I think those that are basketball purists will find our facilities have the best sight lines in America, and we have gone to great length to improve on the other amenities such as those found at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte and the facility in Brooklyn … I think we’ve gone and stayed ahead of that in trying to maintain our venue as one that is always viable and under consideration for the ACC Tournament.”

The ACC, which has held its last 15 women’s basketball tournaments at the Coliseum and two swimming and diving championships at the adjacent Greensboro Aquatic Center, has taken note.

“I see no reason why Greensboro would not continue to be competitive (for men’s tournament consideration) beyond 2020, particularly with the enhancements that have been done in recent years and long-term,” Swofford said.

Time Warner Cable Arena, which became the third Charlotte arena to host the ACC Tournament on its last to visit to the city in 2008, serves as home to the NBA Bobcats and is one of the league’s newer venues. Its amenities include one of the largest indoor video boards of any indoor arena. The facility is within walking distance of many downtown hotels and restaurants, creating what Bobcats Sports & Entertainment President & COO Fred Whitfield calls a “vibrant environment.”

But Whitfield said Charlotte isn’t resting on its laurels either.  

“We do have a building that is relatively new, but it’s 10 years old,” Whitfield said. “We’re in the process now of looking at our building, to see how we can make some renovations and refresh our building, and make it such that we can compete with great buildings like Greensboro. I admire what they have done with the Greensboro Coliseum to keep it a really state-of-the-art building.

“The Brooklyn building is one we compete in (as an NBA team) twice a year, so I know that arena very well. The competitive landscape is very different than it was in 2008, particularly with the expanded conference. What we will do as a community is look at everything we can to give ourselves an opportunity to be successful and to bring additional ACC Tournaments to Charlotte.”

Swofford said Thursday that he understood the restlessness and skepticism of some long-time ACC fans when news of the two-year deal with Brooklyn first broke.

“We’re a new and expanded league in a sense,” Swofford said. “But at the same time, we have a great tradition and a history. We have a different footprint and different opportunities in front of us than we’ve ever had before because of the expanded league. I think that what our athletic directors have really worked at doing is connecting the tradition and the great history this tournament has with the present make-up of the league, which is extraordinary, particularly from a basketball standpoint.”

Swofford believes it is significant that ACC membership voted unanimously on the two-year deal with Brooklyn, but was equally unanimous in its desire to continue the long-standing relationships with Charlotte and Greensboro.

“Hopefully we’ve hit a sweet spot as we look ahead and move forward,” Swofford said.

Periodic forays into areas outside of North Carolina began nearly 40 years ago, when the 1976 tournament was first held at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md. The 2016 tournament will be the fifth to be held in Washington, D.C., Metro area.

Atlanta has hosted six ACC Tournaments (at three different venues), and Tampa, Fla., welcomed the event in 2007. The Brooklyn dates in 2017 and 2018 will mark the first time the tournament has been played north of D.C.

“We’re just really pleased that it has landed where it has landed,” Swofford said of the Barclays Center. “This is just a fabulous facility – one of the best venues in the world in the New York media market.”

While the New York City area is new ground for the ACC Tournament, each of the conference’s member schools have active alumni chapters there. And native New Yorkers have played prominent roles as players, coaches and administrators throughout the ACC’s six decades of existence.

“It’s exciting to bring the elite ACC and its storied men’s basketball tournament history to Brooklyn,” said Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark

Swofford said approximately seven different venues placed bids for consideration in the latest ACC Tournament rotation.

“It’s nice to be wanted, and we don’t take that for granted,’” he said. “I think it’s safe to say that the ACC Tournament is still considered the best of any conference and set the standard a long, long time ago. We owe a lot to those that came before us and the vision that they had, and the passion they had for ACC basketball to build that fundamental base.

“It’s left for us to cherish and build upon, even as the world has changed … and obviously the world has changed dramatically.”