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ACC returns title football game to Charlotte following HB2 repeal

The Charlotte Observer — Katherine Peralta and Chris Cioffikperalta@charlotteobserver.Comccioffi@newsobserver.Com The Charlotte Observer

April 19--The Atlantic Coast Conference is returning championship events to North Carolina, including its title football game in Charlotte, now that North Carolina's controversial House Bill 2 is off the books.

The conference said Wednesday morning that the Dr. Pepper ACC Football Championship Game will take place Dec. 2 at Bank of America Stadium. Following similar moves by the NCAA and NBA, the ACC had pulled the game from Charlotte in September over HB2, the recently repealed law that limited antidiscrimination protections for LGBT individuals.

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which promotes tourism and hotel bookings in the city, estimates the football game had a total economic impact of $32.4 million in 2015, making it one of the city's biggest annual events.

The NCAA similarly announced Tuesday that Greensboro and Raleigh would host men's basketball tournament games, and that championships in dozens of other sports would be played across the state now that HB2 has been repealed. Charlotte, which had submitted bids to host men's basketball tournaments for three years, was not selected.

The ACC said championship events in women's basketball, baseball, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's golf, and men's and women's tennis will also return to the state during the 2017-18 academic year, and the ACC women's soccer championship will follow suit in November 2018.

The ACC also said contracts with venues that had multi-year agreements with the conference were extended a year to compensate for games that were relocated from North Carolina in the 2016-17 season. That means that the ACC's contract at Bank of America Stadium runs through 2020.

"We value all of our partners in North Carolina and appreciate their support and cooperation. We are thrilled to renew our relationships with so many terrific people, outstanding cities and first-class venues," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement.

North Carolina venues became eligible again to host ACC championships after Republican legislators and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, facing a reported NCAA-imposed deadline, negotiated a compromise to replace HB2.

House Bill 142 repealed HB2, including regulations on bathroom access by transgender people, but restricts local governments' authority to create their own non-discrimination ordinances through 2020. Several advocacy groups, including Equality NC, say the repeal effort does not do enough to support the LGBT community.

"We appreciate the action and confidence of the ACC Council of Presidents and look forward to working with the ACC to make the 2017 championship game the best ever. Information on ticket sales for the 2017 Dr Pepper Football Championship Game in Charlotte will be forthcoming," said Will Weber, president of the Charlotte Sports Foundation, in a statement.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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Republican Rep. Jeff Collins complains about the fast process and pressure from the NCAA during debate in the N.C. House about a replacement bill for HB2. Video by Travis Long, Photo by Chris Seward newsobserver.com

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