By: Keith Raad – Asst. Sports Editor
Inside the footprint of the Atlantic 10 Conference, the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., have been selected to host the A-10 men’s basketball conference tournament in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
In 2015 and 2016, the tournament will remain in Brooklyn, New York, at the current venue of the tournament, the Barclays Center.
The announcement comes after an agreement reached between the A-10, Atlantic Coast Conference, and the Barclays Center.
“The partnership created the opportunity for the A-10 to move its championship around our footprint, which was very appealing to us,” conference commissioner Bernadette McGlade said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Working with the ACC, the A-10 moved out of its contract with Barclays a year early in order to secure doubleheaders with the conference. Reported by ESPN Senior Writer Andy Katz in March, the deal will include three years of nonconference doubleheaders beginning in 2015-16. Barclays Center will host the matchups between the two conferences.
“Atlantic 10 put out bids, and they received a number of bids of different venues,” University of Dayton Athletic Director Tim Wabler said. “The conference was trying to keep it primarily in the footprint of the Atlantic 10 itself. It didn’t have to stay there, but it was certainly looking to do that, if possible. There was a sub-committee that worked on it and recommended it to the athletic directors and the presidents that these were the best bids and the best locations.”
CONSOL Energy Arena in Pittsburgh is the home of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and was host of the 2012 NCAA Second and Third tournament rounds. The Arena will host the same rounds next year. Opened in 2010, the venue seats 19,100 for basketball.
With a close proximity to Dayton, Wabler predicts a good Flyer fan showing.
“When you look at Pittsburgh, it’s really added value for our fans,” he said. “Washington, D.C., and New York are probably more plane trips than they are driving trips and Pittsburgh is four to five hours away, which is ideal for the Dayton fans. Dayton fans travel so well, it’s going to be great to see people from Dayton, Ohio, there as well.”
Verizon Center, the home of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, and the NBA’s Washington Wizards, will serve as a central location for East-Coast schools in the area like George Washington, George Mason, VCU, Richmond, Davidson and the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based schools like La Salle and St. Joseph’s. The venue has hosted six NCAA tournament events including two regional rounds, according to the conference website.
Wabler said he never doubted the conference could secure top-level bids and locations.
“Certainly we were expecting professional venues,” Wabler said. “When you look at the whole March Madness scene which really starts with the conference tournaments, you start to see the television and fans interest ramp up. In a lot of ways, basketball has become a March sport because of the tournaments. These tournaments have taken on a life of their own.”
In 2014, the five-round A-10 Tournament was highlighted by attention from national media outlets. NBC Sports Network aired the Quarterfinal Round, CBS Sports Network had the rights to the Semifinal Round, and CBS had coverage of the Championship game.
With the ACC’s sights set on Brooklyn for their conference tournament, the A-10 worked out a mutually beneficial deal with the power conference. In the deal, A-10 members will play top teams like Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Syracuse and Louisville.
“It was good for us to get some doubleheaders with the ACC,” Wabler said. “I think that’s just a great linkage with another great basketball conference, both of which are in similar footprints.”
Part of the deal includes the A-10’s three years in the Barclays Center following the two new locations. In 2019, 2020, and 2021, Brooklyn will again host the conference’s basketball tournament.
“New York City and Brooklyn, that’s really the media mecca in the country,” Wabler said. “Everybody enjoys that exposure of being in high-profile arenas in New York City at that time.”