A joint effort: Farmville, Prince Edward add support to Big South bid

Published 2:35 am Sunday, August 13, 2023

FARMVILLE – As we reported in our last edition, Longwood University has submitted a bid to host the 2024 men’s and women’s Big South basketball tournaments. But part of what the Big South is looking for, as conference officials told The Herald earlier this week, is buy-in from the local community. That includes on the political side of things. 

“We reached out to the town and county to see if they’d be willing to pitch in with the financial commitment and happily both entities grasped right away the opportunity and value of presenting a united front,” said Longwood Chief of Staff Justin Pope. 

The Farmville Town Council made it official during their Wednesday, Aug. 2 meeting, approving a $50,000 contribution. Prince Edward’s Board of Supervisors followed suit on Tuesday, Aug. 8, signing off on a $15,000 donation. 

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“For (an event like this), you bring players, coaches, staff, families, fans of 18 teams,” said Prince Edward County Administrator Doug Stanley. “They would have a significant impact on meals, lodging and sales tax for the community.” 

Stanley acknowledged that Farmville will see the lion’s share of the benefit, as most of the hotel rooms and meals tax would come from town. 

“But I see an impact for us with Air BnB facilities,” he added. “(Along with) a place like Sandy River, with the glamping and distillery.” 

Stanley also pointed out that sales tax receipts come to the county, so Prince Edward would benefit from Farmville’s packed house. And it would be a packed house. Estimates reported by the Business Journal and the Charlotte Observer put last year’s attendance numbers at a combined 14,828 people for the men’s and women’s tournaments. 

“If they were to get it, it would be an ant colony around here,” said Prince Edward Supervisor Cannon Watson. “It would be a very busy place and it would bring a lot of capital.” 

Making things clear

Now to be clear, no money is changing hands right now. Neither the county or town have given a dime. Each of those contributions depends on Longwood actually winning the bid. Right now, Longwood just has a letter of intent from each to then show the Big South officials as part of the pitch. 

“Nobody pays anything if we’re not selected; it only goes through if we end up hosting the tournament,” Pope said. “Then each of the parties chipping in has a chance to recoup some or all of the financial commitment from various revenue sources that would come into play – for instance ticket and sponsorship revenue for Longwood, and occupancy and meals tax for Farmville.” 

So what does the money from Farmville and Prince Edward County do for the bid? 

“This does two things,” Pope said. “First, and really importantly, it signals to the conference there’s a collective local effort to make the event a success. It also helps tremendously to include a meaningful financial commitment in our proposal, to give it the best possible chance. This is also really important. Clearly, there are places geographically more centrally located for the conference members, and (with) a higher total volume of local hotel rooms. So to have a shot, we need to be very strong on this front, and thanks to our partners, we are.” 

No Big South bid from Charlotte 

One city not in the running is the previous host. 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.

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. 

“Being able to make pitches like this with a demonstration of local support is huge,” Pope said. “This is what it takes to land events, and it’s a great sign that there’s a strong, forward-thinking group of local leaders in place to help support those efforts.”