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Despite loss of ACC office, Greensboro finds opportunity ahead: 'We've got a lot more to gain.'

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Greensboro Coliseum

The Greensboro Coliseum has hosted the ACC men’s basketball tournament 28 times, more than any other site, in the league’s 69-year history.

GREENSBORO — Greensboro, you’re going to be fine.

You’re still going to get ACC men’s basketball tournaments, not only the one already promised for March 2023 but two more in the window of 2025-34.

You’re still going to have the ACC women’s basketball tournament, unless the league decides to visit other locales before ultimately concluding Greensboro is its best host.

You’re still going to see ACC swimming and diving championships in the world-class Greensboro Aquatic Center, and you’ll still be able to check out the women’s golf championship at Sedgefield Country Club.

Maybe there will be more.

“Greensboro is a fan favorite when it comes to the (ACC) women’s and men’s basketball tournaments,” Greensboro mayor Nancy Vaughan told staff writer David Teel of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, “and we also have great swimming and diving and golf. So I believe we will continue to be a destination based on the product that we have.”

Greensboro, you’re going to be fine.

“Greensboro has built a huge industry, economic development driver, around sports tourism,” says Richard Beard, the president of the Greensboro Sports Foundation. “And it’s because of these facilities, as the ACC certainly has recognized over many, many years. This is only the beginning of a great future. I really feel like that we’ve got a lot more to gain from this announcement.”

The league announced Tuesday that it would move its league headquarters, which employs about 50 people when all of the jobs are filled, to Charlotte. Losing the office to one of the nation’s top college sports conferences after 70 years — the league was founded at the Sedgefield Inn on May 8, 1953 — is a gut punch, and competing against Charlotte to keep it was a bit like having to face your rival at the Final Four.

But we went down that road this year, too.

“We wanted a home that had population size and positive growth trends, growth and diversity of population,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips told journalists Tuesday. “Access to a large international airport or hub airport with effective accessibility to and from all ACC member schools; anticipated benefit to the overall ACC brand; a forward-facing brand opportunity, marketing all of those things that have connectivity to it; and then synergies to existing and prospective partners in a variety of spaces, including the financial space, including corporate sponsorships.”

Greensboro leaders who have been part of the efforts to keep the ACC in its home, as the move to Charlotte seemed inevitable in recent months, have pointed to projects that are in the works that will bring large numbers of jobs to the city, Guilford County and the Triad.

Boom Technology is on the way to Piedmont Triad International Airport, and with it could come 1,700 jobs. A Toyota factory to build batteries for electric cars in Randolph County will be a boon to the area, with another 1,700 jobs expected.

It’s not clear what local governments offered in terms of incentives to keep the ACC; no one involved has divulged those details.

“We put together a very aggressive package,” Beard said.

Vaughan mentioned offering a private jet service, as Phillips and university presidents have made flight availability at PTI an issue in relocation. The city said it would rename its largest facility “ACC Coliseum.”

Zack Matheny, the CEO of Downtown Greensboro, also applauded Greensboro’s efforts in a tweet.

“I can tell everyone in the Greensboro community your team put an aggressive and powerful pitch,” he wrote. “With this as a motivator and the momentum and grit the City of Greensboro has, we will continue the path of success we are on.”

Orlando was also an apparent contender, with ESPN’s presence at Disney and, of course, its ties to media rights for the ACC.

But North Carolina legislators jumped in, offering $15 million in incentives for the office to remain in North Carolina and requiring a certain number of the top league championships to be played in Charlotte or Greensboro.

“We’re very pleased that we’ve been protected and that we’ll get two tournaments over the next 10 years,” Beard said.

In fact, the former project manager and economic developer in Greensboro has an even better idea.

“A very successful formula for the ACC men’s basketball tournament is to play two years in Greensboro, two years in Charlotte and keep it in North Carolina where it’s hugely successful and not go out of state,” he said. “I doubt the ACC is going to do that, but it’s been proven. It’s pretty obvious that once it goes out of state, it doesn’t carry the impact that it does when it’s in North Carolina, especially Greensboro.”

Beard mentioned what Greensboro gained out of the process. The city might not have won this battle, but it sees more opportunities ahead.

“You’ll hear it from the mayor and you’ll hear it from others,” Beard said. “The group that came together for this ACC assessment was very collaborative, very healthy, and it really brought to light where we can take sports tourism in Greensboro. That’s a major benefit that came out of this out of assessment.”

Greensboro, you’re going to be fine.

Eddie Wooten is sports editor of the Winston-Salem Journal and the News & Record in Greensboro.

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