House Bill 2 has been partially repealed for more than a year now, and Thursday marked another sign that big-ticket sporting events and economic development are returning to normal in North Carolina.
The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Thursday morning it had signed a 10-year extension for the ACC Football Championship Game, which means the annual December matchup will continue to be held in Charlotte through 2030.
“As long as the circumstances are right, this is the correct home for the ACC Championship," says ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “This game has finally found a home in Charlotte.”
ACC already had a contract through 2020.
Swofford says making Charlotte the home for the ACC championship game makes sense. During the first seven games in Charlotte, attendance exceeded 70,000 fans.
Plus, the home cities of all 15 ACC schools have direct flights to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Swofford says. For those who want to drive to the ACC Championship during the first week in December each year, Charlotte is within 300 miles of eight of those schools.
“Charlotte is in the heart of the ACC footprint,” Swofford says.
Thursday’s announcement follows the one-year anniversary of HB2's partial repeal.
In response to the 2016 passage of the controversial state law known as HB2, which barred certain protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, the ACC voted to relocate the football championship from Charlotte to Orlando, Fla., a mere two months before the 2016 game would have been played at Bank of America Stadium. That led to the lowest attendance in the championship’s 12-year history.
The ACC Championship returned to Charlotte last year after HB2's partial repeal in late March of 2017. And the crowds came back. The contest between Clemson University and Miami University attracted a capacity crowd of more than 74,000.
Will Webb, executive director of the Charlotte Sports Foundation, who attended the announcement held at BofA Stadium, says the contract extension is “also about jobs.”
The 2017 game attracted 58,000 people to the Queen City. Those visitors filled the city’s hotel rooms and created a $40 million economic impact for a weekend of college football and fan appreciation, Webb says.
Before last year's game, Swofford told CBJ that that the contract to play the ACC Championship in Charlotte would likely be extended in the spring.