Charlotte and Orlando emerged in the lead for the ACC conference office to move from Greensboro, multiple sources told The News & Observer on Thursday, with a vote expected no later than the end of the month.
Both Charlotte and Orlando possess many of the attributes that the ACC listed when it solicited potential new headquarters sites: population size, growth and diversity; a large hub airport; synergies with existing and potential partners; and willingness to provide “financial considerations related to operating expenses”. Cities also host bowl games with longstanding ties to the ACC.
Greensboro, home of the ACC for 68 years, remains under consideration as the third runner-up.
Charlotte, in addition to being at the heart of the ACC’s geographic footprint, is a longtime host of the ACC Championship Football Game and a frequent host of the Men’s Basketball Tournament, the two most major league events, as well as the annual host of its football and basketball media events. There is also an ESPN studio in Ballantyne.
Orlando has even stronger ESPN connections through Disney, which owns ESPN and operates the ACC network. Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex hosted the NBA’s pandemic playoff bubble and could host any number of ACC championships. The city also hosted the 2016 ACC football title game when it was moved out of Charlotte due to House Bill 2, but has never hosted an ACC basketball tournament .
The Orange County Mayor’s Office said Tim Giuliani, president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership, is “leading the effort.” Giuliani, former CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, declined to comment via email.
Given the ACC’s refusal to hold events in North Carolina while HB2 was in effect, it could face political backlash if it moves its offices to Florida immediately after the state enacts the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, an anti-LGTBQ measure with policy objectives similar to HB2.
“The process is ongoing,” ACC Assistant Commissioner Amy Yakola said Thursday. “No decision has been made by the ACC Board of Directors.”
Last August, new ACC commissioner Jim Phillips sent a letter to ACC members and the city of Greensboro announcing that the conference would consider moving its headquarters from the city where the league was founded. . Phillips wrote that the ACC had a “fiduciary responsibility to ensure that maintaining the headquarters in Greensboro is what is in the best long-term interest of the Conference”.
The league has hired real estate consultancy firm Newmark to oversee the process. In October, the league announced its desire to leave Greensboro and solicited proposals from interested cities. These were due in November with the intention of making a decision by the end of March. The decision dragged on as the 15 school presidents who sit on its board of trustees sought to reach a consensus.
In the Triangle, Duke Chairman Vincent Price and North Carolina Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz declined to comment via spokespersons. Attempts to contact North Carolina State Chancellor Randy Woodson were unsuccessful.
The ACC considered moving to Charlotte in the 1990s, but decided to stay in Greensboro, moving to its current offices near Interstate 85. Greensboro made great efforts to retain the ACC office again. ACC this time, but the internal dynamic of a conference now spanning 10 East Coast states diluted the lure of staying where it was founded in 1953 at Sedgefield Country Club, when seven schools decided to withdraw from the Southern Conference and create a new league.
The ACC met last week to discuss the Greensboro, Charlotte and Orlando proposals, but no votes were taken. Skip Alston, the chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners who has played a pivotal role in the city’s efforts to retain the ACC, said Thursday that Greensboro had not been told it was out of the running.
“I think we did our best,” Alston said. “If we don’t get it, it won’t be because we haven’t tried. We have developed a very aggressive proposal. We are satisfied with our proposal. I hope they will stay home. They have been here for 68 years. We tried to let them know there was no reason to leave the house and go somewhere else. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
This story was originally published April 14, 2022 5:45 p.m.