Longwood puts in Big South tournament bid. What does that mean?
Published 4:34 am Tuesday, August 8, 2023
FARMVILLE – The bid is in. Now it’s up to the Big South Conference to make a decision. Longwood University has put in a bid to host the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments for 2024.
For 2022 and 2023, Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina played host to the event, but the city-owned operation simply said the contract would not be extended. As a result, the Big South put out a call, opening up for bids from its nine member schools.
“With our new arena, experience hosting the (2016 Vice Presidential) debate, and increased hotel offerings in the area, Longwood has decided to put our name in the hat,” said Justin Pope, the school’s vice president and chief of staff. “I don’t know if we’ll get this particular event or not. But we’re giving it our best shot. Our pitch is that we hosted the Vice Presidential Debate in 2016; we can definitely do this.”
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Win or lose, Pope said the school plans to start making bids for more things like this in the future.
“The new Joan Perry Brock Center expands dramatically the kinds of things we can aspire to attract to Farmville,” Pope said. “It will take some time to get the word out, but that’s part of what we’re doing here – getting the word out about the arena.”
What does a Big South bid mean?
The big question is what would this mean for Farmville and Prince Edward County? Pope points out this would help the area in a number of ways.
“Basically (this would bring) nine men’s and women’s programs and their coaches, families and fans to town for a 5-day event,” Pope said. “(It means) full hotels and restaurants. A national television audience (focused) on Farmville for Championship Week as the March Madness field gets selected. And proof of concept with the new arena that Farmville is now fully in business for a new level of events with the new arena.”
The audience Pope refers to is ESPN, which signed a seven-year extension with the Big South in 2018 to broadcast its games. As it stands, the contract runs through the 2024-25 season.
And Pope’s argument about what this would bring to the region is backed up by a 2016 report done by Forbes magazine. The report finds that towns hosting everything from Little League to college conference tournaments bring in revenue from sports apparel, food, drink, entertainment and lodging. To give a specific example, the Big South held its baseball tournament in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 2019. According to a May 22, 2019 report by the Fayetteville Observer, the tournament brought an estimated 2,000 people into the area and filled nearly 1,000 hotel rooms, with a projected benefit of $1.5 million.
It’s also worth noting that the Big South Conference tournament doesn’t just include the games. During the years in Charlotte, the conference held activities around Bojangles Coliseum throughout the week, including fan festivals, concerts and eSports events.
What’s required for a bid?
Now that we’ve mentioned what hosting could include, the question remains as to what’s required.
“It comes down to what the (bidder) is able to provide,” said Big South Commissioner Sherika A. Montgomery. Speaking with The Herald, Montgomery said there’s a checklist to go through. Is the building big enough? Can the area handle the amount of people coming in?
“We look at can (the building) provide things like (space for) media operations, an adequate number of dressing rooms, all the things that come with running a basketball tournament,” Montgomery said. “In addition to that, what makes a bid attractive is making sure there’s community (support), a community with adequate lodging. Can they host all nine of our teams on the men’s and women’s side?”
Mark Simpson, the Big South’s public relations director, pointed out that there will be a large number of people involved, so schools bidding to host needed to make sure they could handle the influx.
“We’re going to have 18 total teams (between the two tournaments), so it’s a little bit of an undertaking by the host,” Simpson said. “We want to make sure the institutions that are bidding can put on a premier event such as this.”
What happens next?
All bids from prospective hosts had to be submitted by Thursday, Aug. 4 and a decision will be handed down, Big South officials say, during the last week of this month. The winning school will be notified at that point, with a press conference scheduled to let the public know who won around the Labor Day weekend.
Editor’s note: What part does local government play in the bid process? In our next edition, we’ll talk more with the Big South, Longwood and local governments, detailing what role Prince Edward County and Farmville might have in the decision.