ACC wants intimacy of Philips Arena for 2012 basketball tourney

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The ACC basketball tournament will feel a bit cozier the next time it's in Atlanta.

ACC athletic directors have decided to hold the tournament in Philips Arena rather than the Georgia Dome in 2012, a move announced by ACC commissioner John Swofford Sunday at the annual ACC Operation Basketball media day.

The ACC tournament has been held at the Georgia Dome twice –- to great success in 2001, when each session averaged 36,505 fans, and significantly less so last March, when attendance fell to 26,352 per session.

"The feedback we are getting and our athletic directors made a decision on, was that having our tournament in a traditional sized arena was the best thing for us," Swofford said, "in terms of protecting the brand, in terms of having the atmosphere that we want, in terms of protecting what is quite frankly one of the most sought after and special tickets in all of sports."

The Georgia Dome can seat more than 40,000 when it's configured for basketball. Philips Arena will hold a little more than 20,000, but that includes luxury suites which will be divided among the 12 ACC schools.

To listen to them, the athletics directors didn't think they'd be drawing 40,000 again any time soon.

"Who knows when that would ever happen again, if ever?" associate ACC commissioner Carl Hicks said. " ... For right now, our ADs felt it was in the best interest of the league to take it to a basketball arena."

The ACC won't rule out a return to the Dome in the future. Atlanta is the only city other than Greensboro, N.C., to host a tournament through 2015. This way, Atlanta Sports Council president Gary Stokan thinks Atlanta will have a better chance to remain a part of the rotation.

"The great thing is they've been happy with both [facilities]," Stokan said. "That's one of the benefits of Philips moving forward. They'll have the luxury of having played in both facilities as they make future decisions."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose Blue Devils won both ACC tournaments at the Georgia Dome in 2001 and 2009, sees positives with both.

"I think Philips Arena is beautiful," Krzyzewski said. "I thought they did a great job at the Dome. I think Atlanta has done a good job, whether it's at Philips or the Dome. I do think you shouldn't judge the Dome based on last season because it also hit at a time when our economy was not great."

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt is partial to the Dome. He said the two best college game atmospheres he's been associated with were the 2001 ACC tournament at the Dome and the 2004 Final Four in San Antonio.

"If we could recapture what we had in 2001, anybody who was there would tell you it was unbelievable," said Hewitt, whose Yellow Jackets beat Virginia in the quarterfinals that year and lost to North Carolina in the semifinals. "Coming from Siena College and seeing 45,000 people at a quarterfinal game at 2 in the afternoon was an unbelievable experience."