The N.C. Department of Transportation is putting up another sign commemorating UNC-Chapel Hill's 2017 national basketball championship, this time in a spot it hopes rival N.C. State University fans find a more respectful distance from their home arena.
Workers were digging the holes Wednesday morning for wooden posts that will support the sign along eastbound Interstate 40 at the Aviation Parkway interchange. They had it up before the day's end.
Aviation Parkway is six miles from PNC Arena, home of the NCSU Wolfpack. It's also twice as far from the arena as the first UNC championship sign that NCDOT put up along I-40 at the North Harrison Avenue interchange in February.
After a great deal of grumbling online from N.C. State fans, someone took that sign down, sprayed it with red and white paint and tossed it in the woods nearby less than a week later.
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Hoping to not tempt that kind of vandalism again, NCDOT consulted both UNC and NCSU to settle on a new location for the sign.
The result of that diplomacy was to put the sign on eastbound I-40 as close to Raleigh-Durham International Airport as possible to catch the eyes of travelers leaving the airport headed east. NCDOT officials have said that the location of the sign and another one erected on westbound I-40 near the Durham County line were meant to greet people after they arrived at RDU.
The signs were among eight marking the men's basketball championship that UNC paid NCDOT to put up along interstates around the state. They included four on I-85 and I-95 at the Virginia and South Carolina state lines; one along I-40 at the Tennessee line; one on I-77 in Charlotte; and the two along I-40 in Wake.
Under a policy adopted last fall, NCDOT will put up signs marking national championships in college sports, though the schools must pay for the signs, at $2,000 apiece, and they have to come down within two years. The UNC signs were the first put up under the program.
The eastbound I-40 sign was not the only one that caused a stir. The UNC championship sign in Charlotte was initially on I-85, too close to the campus of UNC Charlotte for some tastes, and was quickly moved to I-77 near the South Carolina line.