When it came time to deciding on its championship game future, the ACC made a no-brainer of a choice.
Sticking with Charlotte was its best option.
So it came as no surprise when the league announced a six-year extension to play its title game at Bank of America Stadium through the 2019 season. While it is true there have been attendance issues the last two years, Charlotte has been a much better host than previous destinations Jacksonville, Fla., and Tampa, Fla. In four years in Charlotte, the game has averaged about 70,000 fans and sold out the first two years.
Charlotte has been a willing, welcoming host, right in the heart of the ACC geographic footprint. ACC officials have been pleased with every aspect of Charlotte, from the game itself to the events surrounding the game, to the city. And, well, there was no real consideration given to the Pac-12 championship game model -- playing the game at the campus site of the highest-rated team.
"Our coaches and teams really prefer a neutral site," commissioner John Swofford said during a news conference in Charlotte on Monday. "They feel like that's what best for a championship-caliber game. [Campus sites] got some discussion, but quite frankly the success the game has had in Charlotte in every way over the last four years meant that conversation didn't really grow legs.
"We've been in Jacksonville and Tampa. There's no question that Charlotte has supported this game stronger than any other place that we have been. When you consider the fact that it's in the middle of our footprint, that there are a number of alums from all our schools in this great city, and has a facility of this caliber that is being modernized as we speak, coupled with what goes on in Uptown, where you can stay, you can eat, you can party, you can walk to the game, see the game, and then go back and do the same thing all over again. It's a terrific place, terrific venue. You couple all that with the support we've received from the sports foundation, and it became a pretty easy decision, actually."
The game needed a long-term home, and now it has one in an NFL stadium that is undergoing $75 million in renovations. The next step is making the ACC championship game an annual destination for league fans, not just those with a team in the championship game. Will Webb, executive director of the Charlotte Sports Foundation, said his group has reached out to the corporate community and is also considering a collegiate seat license that would give fans access to the same seat for the ACC championship game, Belk Bowl and potentially neutral-site games being played there, including North Carolina-South Carolina in 2015.
"We want to make this a long-term home and the message is going to be delivered that for that to happen, we've got to have broad support," Webb said. "We can't rest on our laurels and say, 'We've got it.' We have to earn it for the next extension."