The Atlantic Coast Conference office is moving to Charlotte, preserving the league’s North Carolina roots but departing the city of its origin.
ACC commissioner Jim Phillips informed Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan of the decision Tuesday morning. She said the conference’s university presidents and chancellors met virtually Tuesday and approved the relocation.
“Obviously we are disappointed,” Vaughan said. “But we are not surprised. I also feel like we put together an excellent package, which is one reason it took them 14 months to make a decision. ...
“I guess one of the deciding factors was to be located near an airport hub. We knew that we weren’t an airport hub, but we offered them concierge’s [private] jet service.”
Founded 69 years ago in Greensboro and a staple of that community since, the league began formally exploring relocation options in July 2021, shortly after Phillips succeeded John Swofford as commissioner. Presidents and chancellors of the ACC’s 15 member schools mandated the assessment and selected Charlotte as the conference’s new home after protracted deliberations.
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Per ACC bylaws, moving the league office requires the approval of at least 10 schools.
Sources said a 10-member ACC contingent toured potential locations in Charlotte, Greensboro and Orlando, Fla., multiple times. That group included Phillips, deputy commissioners Brad Hostetter, Ben Tario and Amy Yakola, Duke president Vincent Price, Pitt chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Syracuse chancellor Kent Syverud, North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham and faculty athletic representatives Peter Brubaker of Wake Forest and Jennifer Strawley of Miami.
Brewing internally for years as the conference’s geographic footprint expanded to states such as New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Indiana, the issue of the ACC’s home base became central when Swofford, the ACC’s longest-serving commissioner, retired in February 2021 after 24 years of service.
Phillips and other ACC officials first detailed the evaluation, which was coordinated by the Texas-based real estate firm Newmark, during exclusive interviews with the Richmond Times-Dispatch last August.
“Should [conference headquarters] be aligned with media opportunities?” Phillips said then. “Should it be aligned with Fortune 100, 200, 500 companies? Should it be aligned with corporate sponsorship opportunities? Should it be aligned with a city that could host championships or does host championships? …
“That’s what needs to be looked at. Are we leaving some money out there? Are we leaving some branding out there? Are we leaving some exposure out there?”
Two months later, the ACC unveiled criteria for its next home, including location in the Eastern Time Zone, a growing and diverse population and access to a hub airport.
Charlotte fits the profile, and then some. The city has hosted 11 of the last 12 ACC football championship games, is the annual home for the conference’s preseason football and basketball gatherings. Moreover, ESPN, the league’s media partner, has a studio facility in Charlotte.
As first reported by WRAL’s Brian Murphy in June, North Carolina legislators have budgeted $15 million for the ACC if the league remains in the state for 15 additional years and, by 2034, stages a set number of conference championships in North Carolina. That requirement includes at least four men’s basketball tournaments, two in Greensboro, four women’s basketball tournaments, four baseball tournaments and 20 other championship events.
Ties to ESPN and its parent company, Disney, explain why Orlando emerged as an option.
Located in suburban Orlando, ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex hosts an array of youth, college and professional events, the most visible of which were the 2020 NBA playoffs. Also, Orlando is home to many Disney theme parks.
But Charlotte, about 90 miles southwest of Greensboro, is contracted to stage the ACC football title game through 2030 and is an occasional and popular site for the conference’s signature men’s basketball tournament.
Greensboro has hosted the men’s tournament 28 times and the women’s 22, both records, plus dozens of league championships in Olympic sports such as swimming and golf. Also, thanks to the city’s ACC connections, Greensboro Coliseum staged 63 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament games from 1974-2012, third-most of any arena during that span.
The NCAA has since awarded 2023 first- and second-round games to Greensboro, which is also home to the ACC’s Hall of Champions museum.