ACC Tournament’s DC Tour is a success for the league, but not so much for the city

Articles, Sports

If you didn’t catch David Teel’s piece on why Washington, DC makes perfect sense for the ACC Tournament, you need to fix that immediately. In summary, the tournament is going to move around, because if it doesn’t, it’s going to die. Understanding that, the ACC might as well pick the best spots during that rotation, and DC is pretty freaking cool.

As a city, Washington, DC isn’t just a good fit for the league geographically, it’s a perfect fit because it matches the diversity of the league’s membership. You can close your eyes and picture an “SEC fan” or a “Big Ten fan”, but you can’t do the same with the ACC because of the mix of north and south, state school and private, urban and suburban. The league used to be culturally defined, but the gentrification of the southern, mostly-suburban, basketball-crazed league due to the introduction of “different” schools like Miami, Pitt, and Boston College is analogous to the evolution of neighborhoods in DC, with the Verizon Center’s Chinatown as a perfect example of those changes.

Greensboro fits the old ACC like a glove, but sadly (to some), the old ACC is gone. DC has been a very comfortable spot for the new ACC, but the “field trip” has not gone off without strong criticism from the people who rely on events at the Verizon Center for their livelihood.

A group of scalpers out in front of the Verizon Center on Thursday night grew frustrated with fans who either weren’t interested in tickets, or wouldn’t buy tickets at prices that would be financially advantageous for the sellers. “This is the worst tournament,” he told us. “The problem is, this isn’t an ACC city. And nobody travels. Kentucky. Indiana. Kansas. Those [fans] travel anywhere.”

Our Uber driver on Friday night backed up the scalper’s sentiments. “I don’t know why the tournament came up here,” said the driver, a long-time fan of ACC basketball dating back to Ralph Sampson. “You should have just stayed in North Carolina.”

From pure perception alone, the crowds have felt great at the Verizon Center, but it has certainly not been the type of event with a sellout crowd inside with more on the outside just enjoying the surrounding environment. Walking around the building before tipoff of UNC/Notre Dame, there was a great atmosphere on the sidewalk outside of the tournament, but one block over at a packed sports bar, there was an equal number of people inside with absolutely zero interest in the tournament.

To us, the visitors, the city has been outstanding. But to the city, the tournament hasn’t seemed to move the needle much. Then again, there may not be a spot outside of Greensboro where the tournament feels larger than its surroundings.