By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2000
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference's men's basketball tournament could be coming to Tampa Bay before the end of the decade.
ACC commissioner John Swofford said the league for the first time is requesting a bid proposal next month from the Ice Palace and would welcome one from Tropicana Field, the site of last year's Final Four.
"For the future health of the conference and further development of the conference, the Florida market is important to us, as is the Washington/Baltimore and Atlanta markets," Swofford said Thursday night.
The league expects to determine the sites for the 2005-2010 tournaments shortly after hearing presentations. The ACC tournament, long entrenched in North Carolina, will be in Atlanta next year before returning to Charlotte in 2002, then going to Greensboro, N.C., for two years.
"I think it has a very good chance," said Florida State athletic director Dave Hart, whose institution would host. "We need to have the tournament in the state of Florida, not for an extended period of time, but I think we need to move it around."
The ACC is looking for facilities that can hold about 23,000, and Swofford said the Ice Palace is a bit small at 20,500 for basketball. Tropicana Field held 46,000 for the Final Four and easily can be modified to hold 23,000. Although the distance between the hotels the Final Four site was criticized by NCAA officials, the facility drew raves.
Still, Swofford seemed to be leaning toward the Ice Palace if the number of sellable seats could be close to the desired number. If not, he said, enough schools may be "comfortable" in accepting a smaller ticket allotment for a year.
"On the one hand, that's a tough thing to do," Swofford said, "but on the other hand, it might give the ticket a higher value."