Greensboro is about to get a lot of attention – along with an infusion of money and visitors next week – when the 2019 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament rolls into town on Wednesday, March 6 and provides five days of basketball and economic stimulus to the area.
Unlike the ACC men’s tournament – which no longer calls Greensboro home, and instead roams around ACC country from year to year – the women’s tournament continues to show the love for Greensboro. The first time that tournament was played in Greensboro was in 2000, and, with the exception of one year since then, it’s been played here every year. In 2017, the tournament was played in Conway, SC – the Myrtle Beach area – but it returned to the Greensboro Coliseum last year.
Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Christensen said the fact that the city continuously lands the tournament is a really nice feather in its cap.
“The women’s basketball tournament is now synonymous with Greensboro and vice versa,” he said, adding that one reason the ACC keeps bringing it back is because of the tremendous support the citizens show the event.
“We continue to show up and support all the teams – no matter what team people favor,” he said.
Christensen said that, just to take one example, the Chamber of Commerce and the Greensboro Merchants Association are offering their members discounted ticket packages to help get people out to the games.
These programs seem to work: In 2017, the one time this century the tournament was held outside of Greensboro, attendance was much lower than it’s ever been in Greensboro.
According to Christensen, hosting major sports tournaments helps create a positive brand for the city and for Guilford County.
“There’s always a halo effect when Greensboro is the site – for instance, when the announcers talk, as they inevitably will, about what a great time they are having in Greensboro,” he said.
According to Christensen, next year at this time, Greensboro will have the ACC Women’s Tournament, followed by the men’s tournament and then NCAA tournament games. That will be a fun March for Greensboro basketball fans and it will also keep the area consistently in the sight of national viewers.
Richard Beard, a developer who serves on the Greensboro Sports Foundation, said one reason the women’s tournament returns to Greensboro every year is because of the level of devotion that the coliseum, the citizens and the Greensboro Sports Foundation provide.
“Everything we do for the men’s tournament, we do for the women’s,” he said.
He said that includes everything from providing two hosts to each team, to showing intense hospitality and bending over backward to make sure people enjoy themselves.
“We also get out in the community and fill the seats,” Beard said.
He said that, for Thursday’s and Friday’s games, the stands will be full of students from Guilford County Schools and the women really enjoy playing those games. He said having the students there as part of a promotion with the schools ramps up the level of excitement and he added that, for some of the players, those are the biggest crowds they’ll ever play in front of.
“They actually pull for both teams,” Beard said of the students that are brought in.
According to Beard, other women’s tournaments around the country have begun emulating the school promotion that Greensboro began.
He said that, in large part thanks to Greensboro’s efforts, the tournament has grown to be the largest women’s championship in the country, and he added that the only reason it wasn’t played in Greensboro two years ago was due to HB-2, the controversial “bathroom bill” that led to major boycotts of the state that year.
Henri Fourier, the president and CEO of the Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that area hotels, restaurants and stores all benefit from the estimated $2.8 million-infusion of outside money that’s spent in the area during the five-day event.
Fourier said Greensboro must beat out rivals constantly to keep the tournament here. He said it is far from automatic.
“There is a bid process and we have to put together a package,” he said.
According to Fourier, every time the city pulls off a major successful sports event, it paves the way for more in the future.
“I think the more successes we have, it gives us a positive image,” Fourier said.