Welcome home, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Make yourself comfortable, because we hope you stay.
Norfolk scored a three-year contract to host the MEAC basketball tournament at Scope, and both the city and the conference hope the move will be permanent. MEAC bought an office building in Norfolk for its headquarters. Two of the conference's schools, Norfolk State University and Hampton University, call Hampton Roads home, and teams from seven other schools can drive here within 4-1/2 hours.
The city has sunk $10.7 million into renovations at Scope since 2004, including replacing and refurbishing seats and installing a $2.3 million high-definition scoreboard. It plans to spend at least $750,000 more in the coming year to add bathrooms.
Scope makes a much more fitting venue for the tournament than its old home at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem. Scope's 9,100 seats should prove the perfect size for a packed house.
Team members, cheerleaders, coaches, fans and families will be able to walk from their hotel accommodations to Scope, to restaurants, to MacArthur Center. They can also enjoy many of the events Norfolk has to offer in conjunction with the tournament, from Saturday night's Aretha Franklin concert at Harrison Opera House to a championship party at the Granby Theater (a couple of blocks from Scope, by the way) this coming Saturday.
Folks who live here get treated to some high-intensity basketball. Last year, NSU's men's hoops team earned a bid to the NCAA tourney after winning the MEAC championship and, once there, upset No. 2 seed Missouri.
As the tournament grows, Norfolk hopes it will become the kind of annual alumni get-together enjoyed by other conferences.
In exchange for free rent at Scope, worth about $30,000, and a $150,000 city-offered advertising budget, Norfolk will collect taxes on all those meals and hotel rooms purchased during the conference. In Winston-Salem, the tournament brought about 30,000 visitors and $3 million in economic impact. Norfolk hopes to match or beat that.
Great basketball, parties and plenty of out-of-town dollars headed into local coffers - for all that, MEAC, we ought to give you a nice needlepoint sign that says Scope Sweet Scope.
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