The anvil of HB2 landed on Durham last week.
The ACC, at the direction of its University presidents, pulled their neutral site championships out of NC for 2016-17, following a similar decision by the NCAA. So, the week-long ACC Baseball Championship will not be held at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park next May. In the spirit of transparency (and venting) I post herewith:
It's is so frustrating that this is hurting our community that prides itself on diversity and inclusiveness. Sadly, that doesn't offset our Legislature's resistance to the same.
I'm not despondent, though. This will be worked out by either judges or politicians in the next year, and hopefully, the tournament will return. I'm more concerned with the loss of momentum. We are trying to convince the ACC that Durham should be the long-term home of the event, and we were awarded a four year contract to show that Durham (and the Triangle) would embrace the event and grow attendance.
Last May, our pre-sold ticket sales were up 24%, and day-of-game sales averaged 1,000 per game for the weekend games. That was without UNC in the 2016 field, so clearly, we were making progress attracting "locals" to the games. Over the past two years, the ACC Baseball Championship in Durham has averaged attendance of 60K for the week with an annual economic impact of $3-5 million.
Regarding the latter, our hotels and restaurants, that had enjoyed full capacity over the typically slow Memorial Day weekend, get a punch to the gut.
My griping is not aimed at the ACC. They are our partner. We've hosted eight Championships since the DBAP opened in 1995. And I should admit that we have been the beneficiary of controversy in the past. We landed the tournament during the SC Confederate flag controversy, and we played host on very short notice when Fenway Park reneged on an invitation to the ACC.
My grousing is reserved for the NC legislature, the Republican leadership and our Governor. (I am registered as an unaffiliated voter, and on this issue I'm particularly unaffiliated with the GOP.)
I will never be convinced that this was really about the transgender bathroom issue in Charlotte - because the law has no enforcement provisions. Trust me, I've read the bill (over and over.) It was cooked up by the GOP leadership to motivate their voters, and it was meant to slap down Charlotte's city council. In the process, they took a broad, mean-spirited swipe at the entire LGBT community. That's what brought NC embarrassing national attention and the ire of the NBA, NCAA and ACC. Restroom security/privacy was never a problem - just a scare tactic to get votes.
Meanwhile, the travel and tourism sector takes a major hit. Restaurants and hotels will lose millions. At sports venues, the hourly employees - the ushers, concessions workers and parking attendants - will lose work. The party known as a champion of business has done a great deal of economic harm.
We have just formed a Sports Commission in Durham to recruit sporting events to the Bull City. I'm a member. It was created and funded by the City Council and Board of County Commissioners last spring. The Durham Chamber of Commerce shepherded the project for over two years. Now, we are in the process of hiring two staffers. We must remove this anvil, aka HB2, so that we can get about our work.