The ACC is searching for the next home of its baseball tournament and Winston-Salem has thrown its hat in the ring.
As reported earlier this month by Steve Wiseman of the Durham Herald-Sun, the event won’t be held in Durham next year due to a change in scheduling policy for teams playing in the International League. The new rule means the Durham Bulls, a member of the league and the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, are no longer able to block off the number of days required to play host to the ACC Tournament — leaving the event's status up in the air.
Winston-Salem is among the cities being considered as a future site for the event, both for 2020 and future years. ACC officials declined to name possible sites, but Winston-Salem Dash President C.J. Johnson confirmed the city is in the running, as did Christian Schroeder, director of sales and services for Visit Winston-Salem.
"We worked with the Dash on the bid, which ended up leading to a site visit," Schroeder told the Journal on Friday.
Schroeder said the bid was submitted during fall 2018 and that it "spoke to the operations of how things would work, to the overall appeal of the destination and hospitality and what our community has to offer."
A vote by the ACC’s baseball committee will determine future sites and dates for the tournament. An announcement from the league is not expected to be made until the end of this year's tournament, which will be Sunday afternoon.
Commissioner John Swofford told Joe Giglio of the Raleigh News & Observer last week at the conclusion of the league’s spring meetings that “Durham has been good to us” and that the league has "a ‘T’ to cross and an ‘I’ to dot here or there but in a couple of weeks, we’ll announce not only (the destination for next year’s baseball tournament), but a number of other championships as well.”
Games would be played at the Dash’s BB&T Ballpark, which has a seating capacity of 5,500. While that would be a drop from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park's capacity of 10,000, it’s worth noting that through the first three days of this week’s tournament, the largest announced crowd was the 4,318 for Thursday night’s game between Wake Forest and N.C. State.
According to the report in the Durham Herald-Sun, last year's tournament in Durham pumped $9.6 million into the area's economy. Schroeder said the economic impact of the tournament coming to Winston-Salem would be able to be calculated only after it was announced the league had accepted the city's bid.
"Things like hotel rates and things like that vary from year to year," Schroeder said. "You're talking about having a significant impact when you host a tournament of that caliber."
If the tournament were to come to Winston-Salem, ACC teams would benefit from a familiarity standpoint by way of playing at Wake Forest. While Wake Forest isn't a part of the bid, the school would be supportive of the tournament coming to the city.
"We'd be thrilled to have the ACC baseball tournament in Winston-Salem. Winston-Salem has a first-class reputation as a host city," Athletics Director John Currie said. "Look at what's happened here in the last few years ... to put things on. The NCAA tennis championships last year were an incredible success and has really elevated Winston-Salem.
"The Winston-Salem Open and the success of that event. ... Anything we can do to promote the tremendous facilities of our city is good."
Four North Carolina cities have played host to the ACC Tournament: Durham (12 times, including nine since 1998), Chapel Hill (five, none since 1983), Greensboro (three, all since 2010) and Raleigh (twice, none since 1980).
Greensboro, however, is not in the running as a future site for the ACC baseball tournament.
"We did not submit a bid for the 2020 ACC Baseball Tournament but we are very interested in hosting future tournaments," Donald Moore, president and general manager of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, wrote in an email to the Journal. "We had 3 very well attended events with the ACC in 2010, 2012, and 2014 and believe we have an ideal facility to host many more successful ACC Tournaments in the future."
The tournament’s overall history isn’t rooted in North Carolina. The first three tournaments were held in Chapel Hill (1973 and ’75) and Raleigh (’74), but only 12 of the first 35 were held in this state. The tournament was played in Greenville, S.C., from 1987 to 1995.
Starting with the 2009 tournament held in Durham, 10 of the last 11 tournaments have been played in North Carolina. The 2017 tournament was the only one that wasn’t; that year's event was moved to Louisville, Ky., because of House Bill 2.
It's unclear if the ACC is looking for a multi-year contract with one site, or if the tournament will bounce around from year to year.
"Obviously we're open to whatever the ACC would like to do. If they'd like to bring it for multiple years, that'd be great. If they'd like to bring it for one year and see how it goes, that'd be fine, too," Schroeder said. "We'd like to have Winston-Salem in the mix.
"I think our strength as a destination is our vibrant downtown. The Dash do a great job with the facility and there's obviously a lot of synergy within the community. ... We're looking forward to their decision. We think Winston-Salem, certainly the community, would embrace having an ACC Tournament here."