How do you mend a city’s broken heart?
For starters, you could bring the ACC men’s basketball tournament back to Greensboro — sooner rather than later.
And that’s precisely what the league has done, announcing Tuesday that the 2023 event will be held on March 7-11 at the Greensboro Coliseum, where it began this year but never ended. The tournament was halted as COVID-19 was quickly spreading as a public health threat.
Years of plans and preparation ended in emptiness and silence. And not only here. Most sports as we know them ground to a sudden halt and, by and large, are still frozen in uncertainty. The NBA suspended its season. Major League Baseball has yet to hold Opening Day. College football may or may not have a season this fall.
And, well, you know the rest: Stay-at-home orders. Masks and social distancing. And one cancellation after another: No Eastern Music Festival. No Spring Market in High Point. No grand opening for the new Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts. At least not yet. No in-person college or K-12 classes. No bleach or toilet paper on store shelves. And no clear idea of when and how all of this will end.
So the ACC’s return is especially soothing to the battered soul of a city that had seen what was supposed to be a dream line-up of milestone events this spring suddenly evaporate. The ACC Tournament. NCAA Tournament games. The grand opening of the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts … all were supposed to happen in March, one after another. And all were either canceled or postponed.
So, yes, we needed this. As Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “We’ve been looking for some good news all these weeks.”
The last (complete) ACC Tournament here, in 2015, pumped $18 million into the local economy. It also is a point of pride and tradition for the city and the region.
Significantly, the tournament is returning to Greensboro at the earliest possible date. The next two tournament sites are already committed to Washington, D.C., in 2021 and to Brooklyn in 2022.
It was the fair and decent thing to do, but that doesn’t always happen in the worlds of college sports and big business, which often are one and the same.
The ACC’s decision also is emblematic of the conference’s close ties to Greensboro, where the ACC was born and is headquartered, and which has hosted 27 ACC tournaments, more than any other city. ACC Commissioner John Swofford cited those bonds this week. “Even though it was absolutely the right decision, given the circumstances, my heart bled for Greensboro,” Swofford said of the need to cancel this year’s event.
“Because I know the history and tradition of the tournament here, and I know how important it is on so many levels to the city. This is our home city, where we live, where the league was founded. So it hurt even more than it normally would have.”
Among other good news this week in sports is that NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 race is scheduled to be run on May 24, without fans, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Like the ACC, NASCAR has deep roots in the Triad. In fact, for a time NASCAR was headquartered in Greensboro and the old Greensboro Fairgrounds — now the site of the coliseum — once hosted
Of course, as in racin’, the road to a new normal will be as much a test of focus and endurance as of speed. But, thankfully, we’ve started our engines.