With crowds down in Jacksonville, ACC moving title game to Tampa, Charlotte

Updated: December 12, 2007, 6:25 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference championship game is moving after drawing smaller crowds in Jacksonville, Fla., than the league had hoped.

A panel of league athletic directors and faculty athletics representatives voted unanimously Wednesday to move the title game to Tampa, Fla. in 2008 and 2009 and to Charlotte in 2010 and 2011.

"Both Tampa Bay and Charlotte are tremendous destinations in terms of their football venue, community support and partnership with the Atlantic Coast Conference," commissioner John Swofford said.

Most importantly, the league hopes both cities will bring more fans. Since the league expanded to 12 schools in 2005 and became eligible to hold a title game, the game has been played in front of dwindling crowds.

The game drew 72,749 in 2005, then 62,850 in 2006 and 53,212 earlier this month when Virginia Tech beat Boston College 30-16. 30-16.

The ACC has also been hampered by teams without major followings reaching the title game. Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Boston College have played in the game in the past two seasons. BC sold only 3,500 tickets for this year's game.

"For the first three years we had one superb year attendance wise in the inaugural game and then the next two were not what we would have hoped," Swofford said. "And what we're after is simply to find the best mix, and I think it does take a mix of local sales with the sales from the participating schools."

The league hopes the new sites will be better attractions. Tampa provides warm weather and plenty of area activities, but it's a long trip for many schools' fans. Charlotte is a more central location, but is prone to cold weather on the first Saturday in December.

Tampa was picked to host the first two-year block at least partially because of a citywide convention in Charlotte in 2008 that limited the availability of hotel rooms and event areas. Each city requested to host the game in consecutive years.

"The ACC is coming to a football community that is poised and passionate about taking the championship to the next level," said Jeff Adams, chairman of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "We're ready for the challenge."

Charlotte's effort included major help from local businessman Johnny Harris, who helped make the Wachovia Championship into one of the premier non-major events on the PGA Tour.

Harris said he plans to study the SEC's title game success in Atlanta, which regularly sells out.

"I think the best parallel is to look at what the SEC did," Harris said. "They're the one we want to emulate."

Tim Newman, chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, said he expects the economic impact for the game to be $20 million, similar to Meineke Bowl. The bowl also is held in December and its schedule isn't expected to change with the arrival of the ACC title game.

Harris said he hopes the game will find a permanent home in Charlotte after 2011.

"We love Jacksonville. We love the people. We love Tampa. We're excited for them," Harris said. "But the fact of the matter is we're going to make this the best place for the ACC championship game."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press