Early last week, the NCAA and ACC both announced that they will be removing events from North Carolina for the foreseeable future due to the backlash surrounding the controversial HB2 law. The events that are looking for new homes range from those a year from now to those as soon as the ACC Football Championship scheduled for December 3. A logical landing place for several of the sporting events is Jacksonville, thanks to the location, weather, and previous relationships.
Rick Catlett, president of the Taxslayer Bowl, said on the Frangie Show last week that they have already been talking and putting together bids for a variety of events, including the ACC Football Championship, NCAA Basketball Tournament Rounds 1 and 2 in 2017, and the ACC Baseball Tournament. While there are obviously pros and cons to each, the one that stands out to me as the best event for Jacksonville to land is the baseball tourney.
The ACC Tournament was played at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville from 2005-08. It coincided with the expansion of the conference to include Miami, Virginia Tech and, eventually, Boston College, and the adaption of the current round robin format.
The conference originally planned to play off of the addition of BC to host the tournament at Fenway Park after Jacksonville, but the decision was overturned at zero hour due to “high cost for the teams involved.” It was too late for Jacksonville to attempt to host the next year, and the event moved to North Carolina, alternately from Durham to Greensboro, ever since.
Now the door has opened again, and the site that has always made the most sense (despite the location of many of the schools in the league) should earn it, and keep it. Jacksonville in late May is actually a wonder time of year weather-wise, and occasionally, further north locales have not consistently warmed up to desirable baseball temperatures at that time. An extended stay in Florida with an opportunity to hit the beach in between games (or when your team is bounced early) is always an easy sell.
In the four years the city played host, the top three and the sixth best total attendance of the last 10 years of the tournament were posted. Having many of the baseball powers centrally located, and drawing the abundance of Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech and especially Florida State fans located in the region played heavily into those numbers, but the destination location cannot be ignored.
Lastly, the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville was in its infancy when it first hosted the tourney over 10 years ago, but now, in its adolescence, it may never have been in as good of shape. New Suns owner Ken Babby has put a renewed focus into making the Baseball Grounds one of the premier Minor League Baseball stadiums in the country, and its size and new features make it the best option for the long term destination for the event.
Jacksonville has long felt cheated by the loss of the ACC Tournament over what many, from the powers that be to casual fans, felt was deception on the part of the conference. Now is a chance to rectify that loss, get the major college baseball tournament that the city desires back, and establish a potential long term home for one of Jacksonville’s favorite pastimes.