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ACC Museum planned for Greensboro

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Museum for ACC gets cheers

1-26-05

By Matt Williams, Staff Writer

News & Record

GREENSBORO -- Coliseum and business leaders unveiled plans Tuesday for a $23 million museum and tribute to the Atlantic Coast Conference beside the Greensboro Coliseum.

Organizers are working to find funding for the project. They pitched the center as a way to cement the conference's ties to the city and attract more men's basketball tournaments to the city-owned arena next door.

"We don't want to lose the ACC," said former City Councilman Dick Grubar, chairman of the coliseum advisory board. "We have to do everything we can to keep them married to Greensboro."

The project is being pushed by a group of business and tourism officials who have been working behind the scenes for the past year. Along with Grubar, the group includes the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, Greensboro Merchants Association, the Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greensboro Sports Commission and Koury Corp.

Matt Brown, the coliseum managing director, presented the proposal to the City Council in a briefing session Tuesday. The meeting was held to discuss city building projects, including a proposed expansion and renovation of the coliseum.

Although the group did not specifically ask for money from the city, council members seemed uncomfortable footing the bill for such a big project. The group did have discussions with City Manager Ed Kitchen to secure $3.2 million to buy the land for the project, but Kitchen said no decisions or promises had been made.

Mayor Keith Holliday said he likes the idea but clearly wants corporations and other donors to shoulder most of the cost.

"It's a wonderful picture, but the question is, who is going to pay for it?" Holliday said.

Councilman Tom Phillips said that wealthy alumni and corporate sponsors should be paying for the museum and urged the group to solicit them. Grubar responded that although the ACC supports the idea of the project, any money from the conference and member schools would be "frosting on the cake."

ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the conference is supportive of the idea but probably won't contribute money toward its construction.

"We think the concept is an excellent one and the conference would be supportive of it," Swofford said. "It has an awful lot of potential."

Swofford said any revenue the ACC collects is distributed back to the universities. He did volunteer the conference's help in putting together exhibits in the hall, pledging to donate artifacts and memorabilia.

Backers of the project hope to get state lawmakers to approve money for the project, piggybacking on Charlotte's bid to host NASCAR's hall of fame.

The house's presumptive speaker, Democrat Jim Black, said he will push for state funding for Charlotte's bid in the coming year.

"We feel it's time to put it on the table and get our share of state funding," said Kevin Green, a member of the coliseum advisory board.

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-Guilford, said she supports the idea but realizes that the state has bigger problems, including a $1.2 billion shortfall. If Charlotte gets money, Hagan said she would fight for Greensboro to be included as well.

"I will certainly be a champion, but I also have to be in the real world," she said. "There is not $25 million to spend on anything like this in the state budget."

Councilman Don Vaughan thanked the group for aggressively pursuing the project.

"God bless you for doing this. It's great," he said.

The concept for the museum includes exhibits on all the conference's sporting events and sections for each of the dozen member schools. It would include an indoor basketball court and potentially baseball, tennis and football fields outside.

"It's meant to be visited by school kids as well as the rabid ACC fans," Brown said.

A study commissioned by backers estimated the hall would attract 170,000 visitors a year and recommended charging $7 for admission.

The hall would be built on land occupied by the former Canada Dry warehouse on Lee Street. The land is owned by Susan Robinson, the wife of News & Record Editor John Robinson, and her two brothers, W. Hardy Spence and Royall Spence III.

Susan Robinson said that she was aware of the group's interest in the land and would wait to see whether they secured money to buy it.

The building would also be a home for the offices of the Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Greensboro Sports Commission.

Staff writer Bill Hass contributed to this report.

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I do not think 23 million dollars is enough to build a first class facility. I also think that funding, especially on the state goverment level is going to be a big problem. As far as the other proposed expansions of the Greensboro Coliseum, there is still too much ill will among some citizens who will defeat any bond referendums to fund those projects.

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