Every year that Greensboro, North Carolina hosted ACC basketball tournaments, it gave a substantial economic boost to the city’s businesses near the Greensboro Coliseum.
But with the ACC’s announcement in September that its headquarters will be moving from Greensboro to Charlotte in 2023, there’s a feeling in the area that ACC Tournament may soon follow.
“Maybe not in the short-term future, but yes, I do feel that (the ACC will move the tournaments),” Lewis Money, manager of Tailgators, a local sports shop in Greensboro near the coliseum, said. “Not to mention, local politicians are going to definitely be in the (ACC’s) ear (to move the tournaments).”
Greensboro has hosted 29 of the past 70 ACC men’s basketball tournaments, 15 more than the next closest cities. On top of that, the city has hosted numerous women’s basketball tournaments and swimming and diving championships.
These sporting events filled hotels and brought higher demand to local sports shops, restaurants and bars, especially when in-state teams had strong seasons. The businesses in the coliseum area became accustomed to the increased demand and revenue that came with hosting.
If the ACC’s tournaments are gradually hosted elsewhere, Money and many Greensboro citizens believe it will have a negative impact on the businesses.
“Whenever we found out that (the ACC) was relocating its headquarters, obviously it was kind of a blow to Greensboro,” Emily Purcell, co-owner of Freeman’s Grub and Pub near the Greensboro Coliseum, said. “Having that taken away from us was a huge thing financially, so that was the biggest thing is just thinking about the finance of all of Greensboro.”
The ACC’s contract to hold the women’s tournament in Greensboro is expiring after this season’s tournament.
Despite the general skepticism surrounding the future of ACC Tournaments, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips and Duke President Vincent Price were insistent that the ACC would maintain a connection with Greensboro, given the conference’s deep roots in the city.
“We’re going to stay close,” Phillips said in September. “The operation obviously leaves Greensboro, but our history and legacy do not, and future championships do not.”
Greensboro’s citizens also view the change in headquarters as a hit to their city’s pride and legacy. Over the past 70 years, Greensboro developed a sense of pride in being home to one of the NCAA’s premier conferences, and it became an integral part of Greensboro’s identity. The ACC was founded in Greensboro in 1953 at the Sedgefield Inn, and its headquarters have been there since its creation.
As an original member, UNC’s ties to the conference date back to its inception and the legacy of both are tightly linked. This history isn’t overlooked by many in UNC athletics.
“I love Greensboro,” Roy Williams, former UNC men’s basketball coach, said in 2018. “Don’t ever forget your roots. One of my big goals is to never forget where I came from.”
After a loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals, UNC women’s basketball head coach Courtney Banghart echoed Williams when reflecting on the Tar Heels’ tournament experience in the city.
“I want to thank Greensboro,” Banghart said. “You guys really run a first-class event (and) our athletes feel welcomed and supported. And obviously the crowd is ignited by getting to see these teams (UNC and Duke).”
Greensboro hosted the 2023 ACC’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments this season. But this won’t be enough to make up for what many ultimately believe to be the gradual loss of hosting the tournaments, nor will it ease the pain of losing such an integral part of the city’s identity.
“I think any time you lose a piece of your local history, it hurts,” Money said. “Every sports fan knows that the ACC started in Greensboro, and for that to not be in Greensboro, it just stings.”
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