There had been a 12-year absence for the Southeastern Conference women's college basketball tournament in Greenville when the city hosted the event this past spring — but this time the SEC is wasting little time in returning.
Today, the SEC announced that the Bon Secours Wellness Arena will host the tournament for three years in a row beginning in 2019.
The league's commissioner cited Greenville's hospitality, the quality of the arena and a desire to build on this year's success as the foundation for basing the tournament in Greenville in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
"The SEC’s experience in Greenville for our 2017 women’s basketball tournament was outstanding and provided the motivation for our return,” league commissioner Greg Sankey said.
The economic stakes are high in hosting college basketball, a renewed opportunity for cities in South Carolina after the National Collegiate Athletic Association ended its boycott of the state following the removal of the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds in 2015.
The SEC women's tournament had last been hosted in Greenville in 2005 before this year.
The women's tournament, which saw the University of South Carolina team win the championship and later the national championship, brought a $1.7 million economic impact to Greenville, according to David Montgomery, vice president of sales for VisitGreenvilleSC, the city's convention and visitors bureau.
The women's tournament was a test run for the lucrative NCAA men's March Madness opening rounds a week later, which hosted the University of South Carolina men's team that ultimately reached the Final Four.
Last fall, Greenville was awarded the 2017 men's tournament after the NCAA moved sites from North Carolina, where legislators had passed what was known as the "bathroom bill."
The men's tournament brought a $3.6 economic impact, Montgomery said.
The men's tournament will return in 2022, and the women's NCAA tournament will be in Greenville in 2020.
This season's women's SEC tournament will be in Nashville, Tennessee.
Eric Connor, The Greenville News