JDL FAST TRACK

JDL Fast Track will be the site of the 2021 NCAA Division III men’s and women’s indoor track championships.

The Triad and North Carolina are back on the NCAA championship map for the 2018-22 cycle.

Wake Forest University’s Kentner Stadium landed the 2019 Division I field hockey championship, while JDL Fast Track was selected for the 2021 Division III men’s and women’s indoor track championships.

The last time Wake Forest was the host of the field hockey championship was in 2006, while JDL held the Division III championships in 2015.

“Our first-class facility and personnel will create a memorable experience for all participants and spectators,” said Jennifer Averill, Wake Forest’s field hockey coach.

Close by, the Greensboro Coliseum will play host to the first two rounds of the 2019 women’s and 2020 men’s basketball tournaments.

Visit Winston-Salem projected the indoor track championship will account for 1,000 hotel room nights and an economic impact of more than $770,000 for the March 12-13, 2021, meet. The agency did not have projections for the field hockey championship.

“Securing this NCAA event adds to Winston-Salem’s impressive portfolio and solidifies our profile as a destination with state-of-the-art sporting facilities that generate positive economic return,” said Richard Geiger, the president of Visit Winston-Salem.

JDL wound up being one for six with its bids for the cycle.

Craig Longhurst, the general manager of JDL Fast Track, said venue officials “worked diligently to position Winston-Salem and our facility as a top-tier destination for these highly sought after sporting events.”

Basketball returns

It will be the first time since 2012 that the men’s basketball tournament returns to the Greensboro Coliseum, where 63 NCAA Tournament games have been played. It also represents another coliseum back-to-back hosting opportunity, following the 2020 ACC men’s basketball tournament.

The NCAA did not provide any specific comments about North Carolina venues or House Bill 2 in its statement. It said on April 4 that a majority of its board of governors “reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina by our committees that are presently meeting.”

HB2 was known foremost for requiring transgender people to use restrooms, locker rooms and showers at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates, rather than the gender they identify with.

At that time, the NCAA said its consideration came with several cautions, foremost “that any site awarded a championship event in North Carolina or elsewhere be required to submit additional documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.”

The Carolinas gained a first- and second-round selection for each of the four men’s basketball tournaments, including Columbia, S.C., in 2019, Raleigh in 2021 and Greenville, S.C., in 2022.

An estimated $250 million in economic impact was at stake in the 133 bids placed by North Carolina venues for the 2018-22 cycle.

Altogether, there were 10 Division I championships selected for North Carolina venues, as well as five Division II events and eight Division III events. Three open divisional championships are set in Raleigh..

The NCAA decision comes 14 days after the Republican-controlled state legislature approved HB142 and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed it into law. The bill repealed HB2 but added controversial elements.

The ACC’s Council of Presidents took a similar step March 31 to reconsider North Carolina venues for future championships.

“The NCAA wisely chose to let past differences between it and some members of the N.C. legislature not get in the way of its great relationship with the state’s facilities, cities, universities and fans,” said Todd McFall, a sports economist at Wake Forest University. “No doubt the NCAA will host strongly attended and successfully organized events in North Carolina over the coming years, which is a great reason for it and the state to overcome disputes that have materialized over the last year.”

Sports talk-show host David Glenn, also a lawyer and the head of ACCSports.com, said March 31 that he thought the NCAA would allow North Carolina venues back into consideration mainly because HB142 no longer leaves the state by itself when it comes to transgender societal restrictions.

Delayed decision

The NCAA delayed for more than four months its overall selection process to give the legislature and Cooper time to produce a satisfactory repeal of HB2.

“NCAA tournament games have a positive impact on our state’s economy, putting more money in the pockets of everyday working North Carolina men and women who help host the games,” Cooper said in a statement.

“While the compromise to repeal House Bill 2 was an important first step to fight discrimination and improve our state’s reputation and economy, we cannot stop until we have statewide LGBT protections,” he said.

Meanwhile, N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, referred to their April 4 statement that “we are pleased with the NCAA’s decision and acknowledgment that our compromise legislation ‘restores the state to … a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.’”

Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo Securities, said that “clearing a minimal bar is not necessarily enough for some businesses to reopen the door on North Carolina for expanding or relocations.”

“There are some companies, whether their boards or their human resources officials, asking themselves how comfortable do they feel about what HB142 did to repeal HB2,” Vitner said.

“Some are likely to continue to feel pressure from shareholders or employees to not consider North Carolina, while others will look at the repeal as good enough to put the issue behind the state,” he said.

Mitch Kokai, a policy analyst with the John Locke Foundation, a conservative research group, said, “It appears that the House Bill 2 repeal effort had its intended effect, since North Carolina has been selected to host NCAA tournament games again.”

Interestingly, of the 26 championship events, none will be in Charlotte venues.

The HB2 debate began with the Charlotte City Council passing an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ individuals in March 2016. The legislature passed, and former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed, the bill on March 23, 2016.

“On the surface, it’s hard to tell whether the controversy surrounding the legislation played any role in blocking North Carolina facilities from winning bids during this round,” Kokai said.

“We’ll probably have to wait a few years, then compare North Carolina venues’ post-HB2 success rate with the rate that existed before the notorious bathroom bill,” he said.

John Sweeney, a marketing professor at UNC Chapel Hill, said that “it remains to be determined how much of an HB2 stain North Carolina’s economy will continue to experience, at least in the short term.”

“When a state is labeled a rogue by such accepted institutions as the NBA and NCAA, the effect on hundreds of potential employers considering a move to the state can be disastrous. At least that’s the perception,” Sweeney said.

“This sense of the state once again fitting into the nation’s mainstream values will be wonderful news for the state’s economy.”

Roger Beahm, executive director of the Center for Retail Innovation at Wake Forest University, said the NCAA's return to North Carolina "is definitely a win for the state's reputation."

"It shows that brands can come back after a major loss of equity, even if that brand is a geopolitical territory."

"It will now take time, of course, for the state to fully rebuild and restore its reputation. And most certainly some people will always remain detractors because of past actions. But that is true of any brand."

However, Beahm said, the return of the NCAA likely will bring new visitors "who will experience the North Carolina brand for the first time when attending some of these future events here, and ultimately become new advocates for the state.

"Thus is the nature of brands."

Get today’s top stories right in your inbox. Sign up for our daily morning newsletter.

rcraver@wsjournal.com (336) 727-7376 @rcraverWSJ

Recommended for you

Load comments