Luke DeCock

Six months out, Brooklyn presents unique challenges for ACC, fans – DeCock

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn got rave reviews for last season’s NCAA tournament games, such as this one between UNC-Asheville and Villanova.
The Barclays Center in Brooklyn got rave reviews for last season’s NCAA tournament games, such as this one between UNC-Asheville and Villanova. Getty Images

At one point, perhaps merely fancifully, the idea of chartering subway trains to get basketball teams from their Manhattan hotels to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center during the ACC tournament was discussed as an option.

That concept, however clever and ambitious, didn’t go anywhere, but it illustrates how novel the Brooklyn experience will be for the ACC, and because of its location, more challenging than a typical first-time ACC tourney host. Six months out, the ACC has cleared most of those hurdles. Those that remain aren’t expected to pose a problem.

“There’s logistics we’re all going to have to stay aware of and stay on top of,” ACC senior associate commissioner Paul Brazeau said. “For the teams, they’re going to give themselves ample time. It’s a little easier to drive in different cities than it will be to take your bus to the Barclays Center.

“But obviously, there are 41 NBA teams that get there and as many hockey teams that get there and so on and so forth. Like any new venue or any new place in terms of the ACC tournament or anything else, there are adjustments to be made. We want to make it as seamless as possible for our teams.”

Still, it’s going to be a different kind of ACC tournament, and not because of cost (it will be fantastically expensive for fans) or latitude (the tournament has never been played this far north) or borough (in Brooklyn instead of Manhattan at Madison Square Garden, which fans of the former Big East schools remember with nostalgia).

We want to make it as seamless as possible for our teams.

ACC senior associate commissioner Paul Brazeau

Barclays Center sits next to subway and train stations at a busy, workmanlike intersection. It is not surrounded by the amenities of bustling Manhattan. Nor is Brooklyn blessed with an overabundance of hotels for fans and teams, especially within walking distance of Barclays. Most teams will stay in Manhattan, becoming part of the evening commute as they brave rush-hour traffic to get to Barclays, although the NBA and NHL teams that visit, like the Carolina Hurricanes, do it without a police escort.

Fans, once they get over the $300 hotel rooms and $35 breakfasts, will still be able to spend their free time in New York City, which has a bit more to offer than Greensboro. They’ll also be able to take ample public transportation to Barclays from Brooklyn or Manhattan.

Once they get there, they’ll find a state-of-the-art arena built specifically for basketball. Even team buses have their own elevator. Barclays hosted the NCAA tournament last year to rave reviews. And while some ACC teams that have played games there weren’t thrilled with the locker-room facilities, the ACC will control both NHL locker rooms for the tournament, which aren’t available for a one-day doubleheader.

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, whose team started the NCAA tournament in Brooklyn last year, offered the ACC plenty of feedback. The Barclays people, after visiting the past two ACC tournaments in Greensboro and Washington, even offered the ACC some helpful suggestions on new ways to do things differently behind the scenes based on their experience with big NBA events and concerts.

“We’ve had a couple years to communicate back and forth,” Brazeau said. “Does that mean there won’t be any hiccups? Absolutely not. We’re going to have hiccups, which can happen in a building you go to very often nor not.”

If there’s one concern beyond anyone’s control, it’s that the ACC tournament may pass entirely unnoticed in New York, with everything else going on there, just as it so often does in Atlanta. There’s also no single gathering place as there was in Washington last year, when the bars and restaurants around Verizon Center were swarmed by ACC fans every evening in a wonderful collision of old-school ACC fans and new-school Big East arrivals.

There’s still enough uncertainty surrounding Brooklyn that the ACC, on purpose or by accident, is not expected to open its next tournament bid cycle – 2021 and beyond – until the inaugural Barclays experience is fully digested. Whatever questions are left, the ACC will give teams and fans a chance to see the answers before deciding what to do next.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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