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Nashville Mayor On SEC Tourney: “We Would Love To Have Them Here”

NCAA Men's Basketball 2009-10. SEC Tournament 2010. Photo by Jonathan PalmerOn Tuesday, Mike Slive announced that the SEC’s athletic directors had given him the go-ahead to begin looking for a “primary” home to the league’s basketball tournament.  The commissioner used the word “permanent” when describing the success the league has had placing its football championship game in Atlanta and its baseball tournament in Hoover (a suburb of Birmingham).

As we noted yesterday, Nashville and Atlanta have become the de facto sites for the tourney over the past decade.  The Music City hosted last year’s tournament and after this season’s, will again host in 2015 and 2016.  For that reason, most believe the SEC clearly has Nashville on its short list.  It’s very, very short list.

Naturally, Nashville’s mayor Karl Dean is all for the SEC bringing thousands of tourists into his downtown arena, hotels and restaurants on a regular basis:


“We would love to have them here.  Bridgestone (Arena) is an ideal place for them to play those games.  It’s obviously a decision they have to make, but I think with the convention center, with the new hotels coming online and the general level of activity in downtown, Nashville is the ideal place to do it.”


Ah, but Dean and his city will have to pay for the right to become the tourney’s “primary” home.  Slive will negotiate with Nashville and other cities (to help keep Nashville’s feet to the fire) and the commish said this week: “I’m not going to leave money in the room.”  He seldom does.

There is a return on the investment a city makes, of course.  According to The Tennessean, SEC fans spent more than $18 million in Nashville restaurants, bars and stores when the city hosted the 2010 SEC Tournament.  That was a four-day affair.  The numbers for last season’s five-day event (featuring 14 schools) are not yet available.

From a conference standpoint, placing the tournament in Nashville helps to spread the SEC’s main events across the league’s footprint.  Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville are all somewhat centrally located and all feature international airports big enough for SEC fans to get in and out of easily.  (OK, getting in an out of Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta isn’t easy, but that’s only because it’s too big and busy.)

Meanwhile, naming Nashville as the “primary” host site — if Nashville lands the tourney — still allows the league to milk massive dollars from cities like Atlanta, Tampa, New Orleans, Houston or St. Louis on occasion.  (St. Louis is expected to land the 2017 SEC Tournament.)

We could be putting the cart in front of the horse on this one, but Nashville — with a downtown arena located in the heart of its entertainment district — sure seems to make a whole lotta sense in a whole lotta different ways.




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