March Madness is returning to Greenville.
The NCAA announced Friday morning that the first and second rounds of its Division I men’s basketball tournament will be relocated to the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Furman University and the Southern Conference will serve as the official hosts of the event, which is scheduled for March 17 and 19.
The NCAA pulled the regional rounds of its premier championship event from Greensboro, North Carolina last month in protest of House Bill 2, the state law that restricts the use of public restrooms and changing rooms based on biological sex.
Bids were opened for relocation sites, and an organizing committee, composed of Furman, the SoCon, The Well and the Greenville visitors bureau, VisitGreenvilleSC, swiftly submitted a bid to end South Carolina’s 15-year hosting hiatus.
Greenville was the last Palmetto State city to host the NCAA Tournament. That was in 2002.
After that season, the NCAA boycotted South Carolina, in response to the Confederate Flag flying at the statehouse. The flag was lowered last year, and the ban was lifted.
Greenville was selected over Louisville, Kentucky, Providence, Rhode Island, Jacksonville, Florida and Dayton, Ohio. Ticket presales for the event are scheduled to launch on Nov. 1 via NCAA.com.
“We are thrilled the NCAA has entrusted us to host one of its most celebrated championships and look forward to welcoming the student-athletes, coaches, and fans of competing schools to our home next March,” Furman director of athletics Mike Buddie said. “It’s great to be back in the business of hosting NCAA Championships in our community and state.”
Contending that House Bill 2 discriminates against transgender citizens, the NCAA pulled all of the championships previously scheduled to be hosted in North Carolina. The organization announced the new sites of six other events Friday. Lower division soccer, golf, tennis, lacrosse and baseball championships were spread to Virginia, California, Georgia, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Texas.
North Carolina’s loss will be Greenville’s gain.
The Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau projected the men’s basketball tournament would have generated an economic impact of approximately $15 million through that weekend.
The Well lists a 13,765-seat capacity, about 8,200 less than the Greensboro Coliseum. Thus, Greenville cannot expect a direct exchange in expected revenue. However, the city will eagerly seize the opportunity to showcase its growth since 2002.
“This announcement is another example of how Greenville continues to move in a forward direction,” The Well general manager Beth Paul said. “We are honored to host such a prestigious tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena and will continue to uphold values of respect and inclusion for all guests and student athletes.”
This will be the third time the NCAA men’s tournament has been held in South Carolina. Columbia hosted the East Regional in 1970.
Greenville and Columbia also have planned submissions for the NCAA’s next official bidding process, for 2019-22.
“Fans and student-athletes are in for a treat as Greenville boasts a new standard of ‘Wow!’” VisitGreenvilleSC president Chris Stone said. “As eager as we are to show off our destination, we’re even more honored to represent the state of South Carolina, known world-wide for its special blend of Southern Hospitality.”