Action taken by the Greensboro, North Carolina, City Council in September instantly made the city of 280,000 residents a mightier contender to host major events in sports as diverse as basketball, volleyball, futsal and table tennis.
By appropriating $315,000 for the purchase and storage of a modular polypropylene flooring system called Sport Court for use in the Greensboro Coliseum, the Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau now can provide new and greater opportunities to sports event planners.
“Multi-court facilities are in great demand,” says Brian Ambuehl, sports sales manager for the CVB. “Having these courts will give us an advantage when pursuing future events.”
The equivalent of 12 volleyball courts, eight high school basketball courts or six futsal courts, the surface is stored in four tractor-trailers on the coliseum grounds. One look at the schedule of upcoming events at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex — a multiple-building facility that includes an arena, a natatorium and a special events center — suggests that the Sport Court will be called into action often and yield a fast return on investment.
The Quest for Excellence Spring Tournament will bring in youth volleyball players from around the region in May, and the event will use the 12 Sport Court courts, plus an additional six courts to be shipped in for play in the coliseum’s special events center.
The Amateur Athletic Union 7th Grade Boys’ Basketball National Championships will be held at the coliseum the following month and then again in 2016.
Additionally, Greensboro has been awarded the 2019 AAU Junior Olympic Games, and the coliseum’s arena will host several events — including table tennis. “The Sport Court will help us facilitate many of the 19-plus Junior Olympic events,” Ambuehl says.
Greensboro has been hosting championship-caliber sporting events long before the arrival of the coliseum’s Sport Court. After all, this city deservedly earned the nickname “Tournament Town” decades ago.
Basketball reigns supreme, with the Greensboro Coliseum arena serving as home to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro men’s and women’s basketball teams. And with the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) headquartered in the city, Greensboro also has welcomed the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament 25 times and the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament 15 times. The arena will host the men’s event this March and again in 2020, while the women’s tourney is locked in through 2017.
Additionally, the arena will welcome the Greensboro Regional of the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship in March, the fourth time the facility has done so since 1999. And in mid-November, the NCAA named Greensboro Coliseum one of eight sites for the first and second rounds of the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
These events will further the city’s college basketball history, already rich in tradition and excitement. The coliseum’s arena was built in 1959, and 15 years later, it hosted the 1974 NCAA Men’s Final Four. That was the year in which North Carolina State beat UCLA in the semifinals to end the Bruins’ hopes for an eighth straight title. The Wolfpack then went on to become national champions by defeating Marquette in the title game.
The arena has undergone several renovations since then, including an ongoing $30 million project that began in 2012 and isn’t slated for completion until 2020. A new four-sided video scoreboard measures more than 36 feet wide and almost 19 feet tall, and 22,000 20-inch cushioned seats have replaced 23,500 18-inch plastic seats. Concourses are now 15 feet wider than they used to be, and there are more restrooms and concessions stands.
“Our involvement with ACC basketball is a huge boon to our economy,” Ambuehl says. “That was one of the main catalysts for all of the renovations.”
More Than Just Hoops
But there’s more to life than college basketball, and the CVB is eager to prove you don’t need hoops in order to book a winning sports tournament in Greensboro.
More than 2,200 wrestlers from nearly 40 states took to the mats in Greensboro in November for the 15th Annual Super 32 Challenge at the Greensboro Coliseum’s Special Events Center. Considered the top folkstyle-wrestling tournament in the country, the competition featured more nationally ranked wrestlers than any other held last year.
Like the new modular court pieces, all wrestling mats are stored on site at the coliseum, saving wrestling event planners the hassle of renting and transporting mats.
Ambuehl credits the multi-building footprint of the Greensboro Coliseum for helping attract the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January , when the facility will house the competition, practice sessions and FanFest all under one roof. “This is the only place that event can have two sheets of ice in one location,” Ambuehl says.
Also part of the coliseum complex is the Greensboro Aquatic Center, which has been busy, too. Known as The GAC, the facility includes a 50-meter competition pool with eight long-course lanes and up to 22 short-course lanes, a 25-yard diving well with six lanes, and another six-lane 25-yard pool for warm-ups/cool-downs, as well as teaching and therapy.
In December, the GAC hosted the USA Swimming AT&T Winter Nationals. This was an event that created a big splash, attracting such top competitors as Olympic gold medalists Katie Ledecky and Nathan Adrian.
The facility also will be home to the YMCA National Short Course Swimming Championships for the next three years: 2015, 2016 and 2017. The four-day event ranks among the YMCA of the USA’s largest aquatic competitions. When making the site-selection announcement, Jim Wheaton, national director of events for YMCA of the USA, cited Greensboro officials’ “commitment to continually improve their facilities … and allow our swimmers to have a first-class experience.”
Other events held at The GAC include the 2016 U.S. Masters Swimming Spring National Championship and Swim GSA, a four-day competition hosted by Greensboro’s year-round youth swimming team that attracts club teams from states as far away as New York and Illinois.
Another sport in which Greensboro is reaching new heights is gymnastics. The 2015 USA Gymnastics National Championships are coming to the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in June 2015. More than 1,600 athletes at both the Junior Olympic and elite levels are expected to compete in acrobatic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, and trampoline and tumbling.
Gymnastics is actually a returning sport for Greensboro. Last year, for the first time in state history, the coliseum welcomed the 2014 AT&T American Cup and the Nastia Liukin Cup. “The event was very successful,” Ambuehl says. “And we hope it will be a springboard for more big things to come.”
Beyond the Coliseum
By now, you might be wondering whether the Greensboro Coliseum is the only competitive sports facility in town. It most certainly is not.
Tournament Town has its share of spectator venues, including NewBridge Bank Park (home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, a Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins) and Sedgefield County Club (which, since 2008, has been the site of the Professional Golfer’s Association’s Wyndham Championship every August). In 2014, that event celebrated 75 years and is now North Carolina’s oldest professional golf competition.
Sedgefield also will host the ACC Women’s Golf Championship in April, while Grandover Resort will be the site for the 2015 NCAA Division III Men’s Golf National Championships in May.
One of the most beautiful of Greensboro’s sports venues is the Bryan Park Soccer Complex, home of the Greensboro United Soccer Association. Its 17 immaculately maintained Bermuda grass fields are used only for games and not for practice. With a 3,000-seat stadium, the facility has hosted a record four US Youth Soccer Region III Championships, four North Carolina Youth Soccer Association Finals and the Liverpool FC Academy Team.
In 2016 and 2017, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro will welcome the NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Soccer National Championships.
Located in Guilford County, Greensboro boasts 10,000 of the county’s 16,000 available hotel rooms, and the city’s Piedmont Triad International Airport has become an East Coast transportation hub. For more information about all that Greensboro offers sports event planners, visit www.visitgreensboronc.com.