When the city announced that the ACC baseball championship would be contested at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in 2005, there was a small amount of excitement in town. Not a lot, but not a collective yawn either. Nice event, nothing spectacular.
The ACC championship drew over 66,000 fans over the five days, and could have easily been more if there had been a night game on Saturday to determine who was going to the finals. As it was, the tournament had every thing you hope an event in your town has. Good weather, competitive games, a great venue and happy fans.
In all, eleven teams came to town with a chance to win the conference championship. Three play-in games on Tuesday put Wake Forest in the main draw, a double elimination tournament beginning on Wednesday with the top seven teams from the regular season. (The conference will cut the tournament down to eight teams next year with no play-in games)
There were all kinds of games in the tournament. Low scoring, high scoring, tight finishes and blowouts. In the end, Georgia Tech was named the winner, beating Virginia 4-3 in the title game on Sunday afternoon.
But the real winner was Jacksonville.
It’ll be hard for the conference to move the game anywhere else. The attendance eclipsed the previous record by the time they had played games on Friday. Florida State got beat by Tech on Saturday afternoon, but if they had been able to force a second game Saturday night, you can add over 12,000 more to the final total.
Although it’s a two-year contract with a third year option for the ACC, no doubt they’re looking to keep the game in Jacksonville for a while. But there are a couple of other options, including a very attractive one at Fenway Park. Apparently because Boston College joins the fray next year, Fenway would like to host the tournament with the Eagles as the home team. That would be tough to pass up, no matter how nice things were here in Jacksonville. And with its roots in the Carolinas, the conference probably wants to put the tournament in its home state every once in a while. So while Jacksonville is the preferred venue, it’ll take some lobbying and some guarantees to keep the tournament here.
What it proves is that Jacksonville is more than just a one-horse (football) town. Anytime there’s been a well promoted, worthwhile event here, people have turned out. The ACC Championship isn’t supposed to be a big time event, but it attracted fans from all over the conference and all over the city. If it’s not here permanently, don’t worry, it’ll be back.