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Nov. 29, 2012
Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., will host the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Championship Game for the third straight year when Florida State and Georgia Tech square off Saturday at 8 p.m. Michael Kelly, the ACC's Senior Associate Commissioner who oversees Football, Broadcasting and Communications, discusses the growth of the event, which is now in its eighth year overall, with Steve Phillips, the conference's Associate Director of Communications.
As you prepare for the third year in Charlotte, what are some of the built-in advantages of returning to familiar territory?
One of the greatest things about Charlotte is the footprint of the city and the way it sets up for this event. In terms of our team hotels, our band hotels and all the venues that we use - obviously for the game, but also for other events - are all within a few blocks walking distance. That creates a great synergy and a great energy about the game and the whole weekend.
Charlotte has done an awesome job of adding major musical entertainment associated with Fanfest and they've staged the event right on stadium property so it creates an awesome atmosphere on game day. This will be the second year of our 5K Run - the Championship Chase - that is held downtown. It is branded with the ACC and all of our schools and their mascots. Since our game has been at night the past couple of years, this is a nice way for people to get out the first thing in the morning and get some exercise, and then come back and relax and get ready for all the festivities.
What else has been added the last couple of years?
We've also added an event at EpiCentre called "ACC Fan Central," which is a place for fans of both teams to kind of congregate on Friday night before the game. There are a lot of venues on site where they can eat and party at, and of course there is the big pep rally that we put on in that area. Friday night is special because it has the VIP component with our Night of Legends, and then you have the fan-oriented events at EpiCentre. You can wake up the next morning and get in the 5K run and walk, rest up until Fanfest starts at noon, and that leads right into the primetime kickoff. So it's a fun couple of days.
You mentioned some of the musical acts that have played Fanfest - the ACC has been fortunate to attract some real name artists, hasn't it?
Our staff and our partners have done great on that event over the years. Having Little Big Town here this year is a big deal - they just won the CMA Award for Song of the Year, and they've been very popular for a number of years. We have a special guest as our national anthem singer this year as well, a young lady by the name of Anna Maria Martinez. She is a former Grammy winner and one of the finest sopranoists in the world. I am sure she will put on a great performance Saturday night as well.
And Lee Brice is here.
Yes, he will be another act at Fanfest. It is kind of neat to have a former ACC football team member (Clemson) who is part of that lineup. When you go back and look historically and look who has performed at our Fanfests before, it's pretty special. We had Blake Shelton a couple of years ago down in Tampa, we've had Montgomery Gentry and we had Dierks Bentley last year. That's brought an added entertainment component for our fans, and it's helped make the ACC Championship weekend even more special. That's one of the things we've wanted to do as we've built this. We wanted to get the Charlotte community involved, and we've wanted to put on a season-ending show for two days. Even if you love your one school or all 12, you can come out and have a wonderful weekend here.
How many local people are involved, and how many volunteers do you get from Charlotte who help you stage all of the events?
That's a great question. Obviously the Carolina Panthers, their staff and whole organization are a huge help to us. We have the game day staff, and all the people who are involved in game day operations. There are literally 500 to 1,000 people involved there. There are another thousand people involved from Charlotte as volunteers, who are members of the local organizing committee. Some may just work a couple of hours here and there to make the event a pleasant experience, but they are a dedicated team. And then there are 30 to 50 core members of the Charlotte Collegiate Football group that work very hard all years to sell tickets and continue to grow this event for their city.
You sound pleased with how the response has been locally.
I think the people of Charlotte have come to realize that this first weekend in December has turned into a really great thing and a fun event they can put on their social calendars every year.