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Greensboro Coliseum makes pitch to become ACC's bubble site
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Greensboro Coliseum makes pitch to become ACC's bubble site

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The Greensboro Coliseum last hosted college basketball back in March, when the ACC Tournament was halted in the quarterfinals and the season abruptly ended because of the spreading coronavirus pandemic. According to a proposal by Greensboro Coliseum officials, the Coliseum’s arena, the Fieldhouse and the Special Events Center could host ACC games and practices from Nov. 23 through Jan. 10, 2021, at an estimated total cost of $710,000 to the league.

GREENSBORO — If college basketball chooses to follow the pandemic model set forth by the NBA or NHL, then the Greensboro Coliseum would like to be one of the “bubble” sites.

That’s a big “if” at this point. The NCAA Council met Wednesday to begin discussions on when the basketball season will start and what it might look like. From there, recommendations go to the NCAA Board of Directors.

But if bubbles are the future, the city is ready.

Coliseum staff have come up with a plan and cost estimates to create a six-week environment for an ACC basketball season for its men’s and/or women’s teams.

In an Aug. 31 memo to Paul Brazeau, the ACC’s associate commissioner for men’s basketball, Coliseum deputy director Scott Johnson outlined concepts, proposals and costs for a compressed basketball season that would limit exposure to the outside world as it deals with the global coronavirus pandemic.

Under the proposal, the Coliseum’s arena, the Fieldhouse and the Special Events Center could host games and practices from Nov. 23 through Jan. 10, 2021, at an estimated total cost of $710,000 to the league.

“Our understanding,” Johnson wrote, “is the premise would be the teams, referees, staff, TV, etc. would stay at one hotel, the Sheraton, and the ‘bubble’ would be the Sheraton, on a bus to/from the Coliseum Complex and playing games or practices in the Fieldhouse and Greensboro Coliseum. The intention may be to play regular-season games from Thanksgiving through early January and the games would be televised or tape delayed.”

It’s a model similar to what has worked for the NBA in Orlando, Fla., and the NHL in its Canadian hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto.

The difference is those are pro leagues while college players are also students who take classes, although much or all of this “bubble” could be held between semesters.

“Things are only in the conceptual stages right now,” Coliseum managing director Matt Brown said Tuesday. “It’s really up to the ACC and the other leagues. But we wanted to portray that we were enthusiastically ready, willing and able to assist both the men’s and women’s ACC in any concept they would pursue with regard to their seasons, their conference-only seasons or their tournaments. … Greensboro really cares.”

The Coliseum hosted this year’s ACC Tournament in mid-March, which was stopped in the quarterfinals when the sports world shut down amid the spreading coronavirus pandemic.

But now, the success of the NBA and NHL “bubbles” of sequestered athletes showed a path to Major League Baseball and the NFL to play games in stadiums empty of fans. Some college football leagues have resumed as well.

That’s created interest in a college basketball bubble.

CBS Sports' John Rothstein this week reported that eight major early-season tournaments will be hosted by Orlando in the opening weeks of the season and that the Battle 4 Atlantis, which this year features Duke, is moving to a bubble-type setup in South Dakota.

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