The Virginian-Pilot yesterday last week reported on final stats for the MEAC men’s basketball championship game - just over 7,100 paid seats of the Norfolk Scope’s 9,100-seat capacity. Despite a tournament missing the defending champion Norfolk State Spartans and Hampton Pirates, and the first year was a great success according to MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas.
“Norfolk is the right place, and Scope is the right venue, and by that, I mean the right-sized venue.
We don’t need a 15,000-seat arena. We need about 9,000 seats. I’m very pleased.”
Norfolk is one of the most tourism friendly sites to host the tournament in years and has the potential to sell out the Scope Wednesday through Saturday if the conference partners with the right kind of events and groups. A concert with Aretha Franklin was a great attempt, but until the MEAC starts thinking Chris Brown and 2 Chainz on Thursday and Friday night, there will be no reason for younger MEAC fans to road trip and take over the city ala’ CIAA Week in Charlotte.
There are lessons the MEAC can take from the CIAA’s failure to create and promote their own events in the host city. The MEAC would enjoy an endless latitude to hold its same symposiums, community service initiatives and presentations, in addition to throwing its own official parties, step shows and alumni reunions in the areas hotels. The more events the conference controls, the more money, branding and goodwill they will reap from an age-diverse fan base.
The tournament is a good fit for the MEAC so long as Hampton and Norfolk State are competitive, but to reach its full potential, the MEAC will have to work over the next two years on its social brand to ensure that 9,100 seats soon becomes far too few.