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Officials dazzled by arena's facelift
Hockey town looked a whole lot like a basketball spot Wednesday.
By BRIAN LANDMAN AND GREG AUMAN
Published March 8, 2007
TAMPA - Hockey town looked a whole lot like a basketball spot Wednesday.
As folks hustled to put the final touches on the St. Pete Times Forum as it prepares to host the ACC tournament, and 10 of the league's 12 teams came in to practice, officials gushed at the transformation that has been seven years in the making. That's about how long it has been since the ACC decided to take its signature event far off Tobacco Road and see how it would play in Florida for the first time.
"Right now, I put the Times Forum in the same category as Greensboro," Fred Barakat, manager of the tournament for the 20th and final year before he retires, said of the tournament's semipermanent home.
There are new baskets. The Lightning playoff banners have been raised 90 degrees so as not to hang. Other references to the hockey team have been covered. The Canadian flag is down. The lightning bolt that spanned the floor at a doubleheader in December has been removed and the floor refinished. There are ACC banners everywhere.
"It's all in the details," Barakat said. "And you have to be on top of every little thing."
Commissioner John Swofford was just as impressed with the greetings he and teams received at Tampa International Airport upon their arrival and at their hotels, and with the hundreds of street banners and the party-in-waiting on the plaza outside the Times Forum.
"When you walk outside or down the street," he said, "you really feel like you're in an ACC home venue."
Jeff Adams, chairman of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, said he's proud the league has entrusted the tournament to this area and the "goal is to raise the bar" for future sites and, perhaps, pave the way for a return engagement.
DOUGLAS UPDATE: FSU sophomore point guard Toney Douglas, who missed five games after fracturing a bone in his right (shooting) hand against Clemson, didn't have his hand wrapped at the team's practice at the Times Forum. (FSU also had a tougher, longer workout at USF later in the day.) "It feels pretty good, but it'll be a game-time decision whether I wrap it up or play without it," he said.
MORE AWARDS: A trio of ACC players earned All-America honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough was named to the first team, Boston College's Jared Dudley was second team and Virginia's Sean Singletary made the third team.
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING: The Seminoles weren't unveiling a new motto on their warmup shirts, but the words spoke volumes: Whatever It Takes! 2007 ACC Tournament.
FIRSTS: The first road game of Duke coach Mike Krzyzew-ski's tenure with the Blue Devils was in Tampa, with an 11-point win at South Florida in December 1980. It was the second USF game played in the Sun Dome, which opened that season on USF's campus. ... Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg coached USF to a win on the first day basketball was played in the St. Pete Times Forum. His Bulls beat UCF in the third of three games played in the Tampa Bay Roundball Classic on Dec. 30, 1997.