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ACC Baseball Tournament Up for Grabs

Durham Bulls Athletic Park 2016

With Durham Bulls Athletic Park out of the mix for 2020, the ACC Baseball Tournament will shift to a new location—and a competitive field is lining up to host the tourney.

The Durham Bulls (Class AAA; International League) have hosted the annual tournament at their home facility in most years since 2015. Originally Durham Bulls Athletic Park was guaranteed four consecutive tournaments starting in 2015, but the agreement was modified to include 2019 after the 2017 event was moved to Louisville amidst controversy surrounding North Carolina’s House Bill 2. Although the Bulls and Durham officials wanted to continue hosting the tournament, it was revealed last week that Durham Bulls Athletic Park is out of the running for 2020 because of scheduling conflicts.

At this point, there are still many unknowns about where the tournament will be staged beginning next year. However, the International League policy that effectively prevented the Bulls from blocking off enough dates for the tournament will affect other potential contenders as well. That includes the Louisville Bats, as a report from the Courier-Journal on Friday indicated that Louisville is likely out of the running.

As International League president Randy Mobley explained, allowing teams to block out a weeks’ worth of road games for the tournament created significant scheduling challenges. Those challenges added to some of the issues that the International League already faces on an annual basis, with teams having to schedule road games as to avoid conflicts with major events such as the Kentucky Derby and Indy 500. More from the Courier-Journal:

Including the already created 2020 schedule, Louisville, Durham or any other club in the league interested in blocking out a week of road games to accommodate hosting an event like the ACC Tournament was unable to do it, having been told by the league that those dates could no longer be guaranteed.

“The more protected dates that you plug in there, the fewer potential ‘perfect schedules’ you can create because you’re placing greater limitations on the schedule-making process,” said International League President Randy Mobley. “So the premise to reduce the number of protected dates to better a schedule for everyone was the route that was being taken. … The league will no longer allow a club to protect that length of a period of time because of the negative impact it has on the overall schedule and the other league members.”

Mobley said “a few events” that were “insurmountable enough” and “only a matter of a few days” have continued to be protected, including the Kentucky Derby and Indy 500 weekends.

Being able to schedule a sufficient number of road games for the tournament will be essential for any location in the mix. Possible alternatives outside the International League do exist, as the Times-News reported last week that Greenville (where a bid was confirmed in a report from The State on Tuesday), Jacksonville, and Winston-Salem are among the cities that have expressed considerable interest or submitted bids. The Charlotte Knights (Class AAA; International League) also are reportedly showing interest, but they fall under the same International League scheduling policy as Durham and Louisville. That is not be the case, however, for the Greenville Drive (Low A; Sally League), Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Class AA; Southern League), or Winston-Salem Dash (High A; Carolina League).

Out of that trio, Jacksonville is the only one that has hosted prior ACC Baseball Tournaments at its current MiLB facility. However, all three are within the conference’s footprint and can place a high-quality MiLB ballpark at the center of its bid.

Whether one of those three or another contender is named the ACC Baseball Tournament host for 2020 (and possibly beyond) remains to be seen, but the incentive to land the tournament is strong. The 2018 edition drew 43,483 fans to Durham Bulls Athletic Park over six days and, per figures from the Durham Sports Commission, brought $9.6 million into the regional economy. A decision on the next host could be made during this week’s conference meetings, according to the Times-News.

This article first appeared in the Ballpark Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? It’s free, and you’ll see features like this before they appear on the Web. Go here to subscribe to the Ballpark Digest newsletter.

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