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ROGER WATSON COLUMN: Charlotte is a new favorite for tourney time

Having been to ACC Tournaments in Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Greensboro, I thought there was nowhere that could come close to the convenience and hospitality of the ACC tourney at the Greensboro Coliseum. Then I want to this year’s tournament in Charlotte.

It had probably been 15 or more years since I had spent any time in downtown Charlotte. I had flown through the airport and drove around the city a few times but had not experienced the new, modern version of Charlotte’s downtown.

Roger Watson

The difference between Charlotte and Greensboro is convenience and location.

The Spectrum Center was built to have a symbiotic relationship with the downtown. A myriad of hotels, restaurants and parking facilities complement the arena. It’s a very modern facility with lots of screens, great concessions and the guest relations people go out of their way to engage the fans and make sure everyone is having a good time.

During the opening round games Tuesday afternoon, I had a delicious New York Strip sandwich. Carved right in front of me, it cost more than my ticket, but it was well worth it. It’s nice to have interesting food choices other than hot dogs or chicken tenders. Although, there is nothing wrong with some good chicken tenders and fries.

Stepping out of the building after a game puts you in a place bustling with food and entertainment options. And it’s easy to get there. I drove in, paid $7 to park less than a quarter mile away and made the easy walk to the arena. You can stop at the I-485 park and ride to take light rail Lynx train or a bus. The bus station and a train stop are right across from the arena.

The hardest part was taking the stairs all the way up to Row X in the upper level Wednesday night, but you get the seat you pay for. The workout is free.

The Greensboro Coliseum was built during a time when arenas occupied their own plot of land away from downtown areas. It is not in a very walkable community and is surrounded by parking lots. Visitors to the tournament in Greensboro either have to arrange a shuttle bus or drive back and forth every session. Parking is typically around $20. At two sessions a day, that adds up.

This is not to say I will not be thrilled when the ACC returns to Tournament Town next year. Greensboro is the undisputed home of the ACC and the Coliseum is synonymous with the event. Having worked on press row at the tournament in Greensboro for a couple of years, I know from behind the scenes how the facility was designed for that tournament and serves as a perfect host.

But Charlotte is another great host city within easy driving distance for most Tobacco Road fans. Hopefully it will get more hosting opportunities and keep the tournament from wondering away from the Mid-Atlantic region in the future.

Roger Watson is publisher of The Stanly News & Press.