Other Voices: An unsure future for ACC home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Oh, the pangs of unrequited love.

We’ve fretted before that the Atlantic Coast Conference might leave Greensboro for a city with brighter lights and hotter sizzle.

Time was when slick suitors from Charlotte tried to pilfer the league’s headquarters in 1994.

Then-Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot and a contingent of Queen City executives offered an incentives-drenched proposal for the ACC to move there. “It seemed like a natural fit,” Vinroot said at the time.

The conference didn’t budge. Developer Joe Koury built the ACC new quarters off the golf course in Grandover. And the folks from Charlotte got to go back home to their traffic and their quaint coliseum.

But that was a different era and a different ACC.

Those were the days when Gene Corrigan and later, John Swofford, were ACC commissioners. Both felt a deep affinity for Greensboro and an appreciation for the city’s special place in ACC history.

This was, after all, where the conference was born on May 8, 1953. Since that time, the headquarters has moved a few times — from the King Cotton Hotel to a downtown office building at 338 N. Elm St., to an office condo center at West Cornwallis Drive and Battleground Avenue, to the Landmark Center off West Wendover Avenue.

Same town, different addresses.

But now the chancellors and presidents who comprise the conference’s board of directors have asked its current commissioner, Jim Phillips, to look into a possible move.

This is not idle speculation. Consultants have been hired.

As for the stakes, the ACC’s presence, in numerical terms, is not that big: 50 employees.

But as a point of civic pride and identity, its impact is incalculable. And it would be another yet corporate headquarters leaving a town that is left with precious few.

Yes, it’s easier to get direct flights in bigger cities. No, the nightlife here may not rival Atlanta’s or Charlotte’s.

You could same about Green Bay, the smallest market in the NFL. In fact, when the team joined the league in 1921, it wasn’t only the smallest city in what was then the American Professional Football Association (except for Tonawanda, N.Y.), it was the sixth-smallest city in Wisconsin, behind places like Oshkosh and Superior. But can you imagine the Packers anywhere else?

Plus the ACC means more to us. In Charlotte or New York or Atlanta, it would have to vie for attention from myriad other sports, including pro franchises. P

As for more revenue (a big priority for Phillips) and corporate branding, does the ACC, whose marquee sports are exposed on national television regularly, which has its own broadcast network, really need a big-city headquarters to achieve those goals?

If anything the ACC sometimes gets lost in the noise of larger cities. Remember how quietly the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament happened in Brooklyn?

As one league basketball coach said of Greensboro in 2019: “The one year we were there the people were great. The hotel we stayed at? They were great. They stayed up late waiting for us to return to the hotel and then they bent over backward to help us. That doesn’t happen in New York.”

That wasn’t Mike Krzyzewski or Roy Williams. It was Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who had four years earlier made Greensboro sound like Hooterville or Bug Tussle in unkind cuts about its smallness.

But even Boeheim knows this city’s affection for the ACC.

The Greensboro Coliseum has hosted 27 ACC men’s tournaments, more than anyplace else. Greensboro is the unofficial home of that tournament, as well as the women’s tournament, which has enjoyed consistent success here. It’s where the sitting mayor, Nancy Vaughan, is the daughter of a director of the conference’s basketball operations and an assistant commissioner, the late Fred Barakat.

It’s got new hotels, a new performing arts center, great golf courses and a vibrant downtown.

If we were one of those consultants we’d remind the ACC to:

a) Remember from whence you came.

b) Pay homage to your heritage on Tobacco Road.

c) Dance with the one that brung you.

Stay here … if you know what’s good for you.

— Greensboro News & Record