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S.C. sports tourism leaders make pitch to NCAA

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Staff Report
Published Aug. 7, 2015

Now that the Confederate flag is gone from the Statehouse grounds, S.C. sports tourism leaders journeyed to Indianapolis this week to meet with leaders of the NCAA to promote the Palmetto State as a host for NCAA-sanctioned events.

Making the trip was Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and members of the S.C. Sports Alliance. The S.C. contingent thanked the NCAA for lifting its ban on the state and met with about 30 representatives of the organization's championship division, according to PRT.

"We believe it's important to demonstrate our commitment to hosting major college sports events in South Carolina," Parrish said. "With our mild weather year-round, our high standards of hospitality and service, and our great sports venues, South Carolina should be a significant player."

The 18,000-seat Colonial Life Area was envisioned as a potential event for major NCAA-sanctioned sports events. (Photo/University of South Carolina)
The meeting was arranged by Auvis Cole, sports sales manager for the Rock Hill/York County Convention & Visitors Bureau and president of the alliance.

"The timing was just right. We have everything in place to be a major contender for hosting college championship games and we plan to go after all opportunities that make sense for South Carolina," Cole said.

The bidding process for most of the NCAA's postseason games will begin within a year. South Carolina has a variety of stadiums, arenas and sports fields that can accommodate college championship games and the large crowds that follow them.

Two of those facilities are the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena, originally envisioned as a venue for big-ticket NCAA events such as a men’s basketball regional tournament, and the University of South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium, which holds 80,250.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, speaking at a recent meeting of 1 Million Cups at Cromer’s Pnuts, said he gets asked “every day since the flag came down” about the Midlands’ chances of hosting major NCAA-sanctioned events such as a basketball tournament or college football bowl game.

Benjamin, who did not make the trip to Indianapolis, added that with the flag down, the city can look forward to drawing other opportunities besides NCAA games.

“I think a lot of folks underestimated the psychological effect that flag had on who — all things being equal — wanted to bring investment or conferences or events to Columbia,” Benjamin said.

The flag was cited by some as a problem, the mayor said. Often the caller would say, “I want to bring my conference to Columbia but that flag is a major issue,” Benjamin added.

“Some of them, we were able to pull in, some we were not able to pull in. At least this (removal of the flag) allows us to have a level playing field in competing with others for conferences,” Benjamin said.

Joining Parrish and Cole at the Indianapolis meeting were:

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