Andrew McKay 02/07/20
Last night, the Escambia County Commission unanimously approved the deal put together by several local organizations to bring the Sun Belt Conference’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to Pensacola for five years starting next year. Pensacola Sports President Ray Palmer tells NewsRadio the tournament will take place over roughly a week and be held both at Pensacola State College and the Bay Center. Palmer says the UWF facility is scheduled for renovation and therefore was not available for this project. The deal still needs to be inked with the Conference, but last night was the last likely hurdle to be crossed toward that end.
The City of Pensacola has already committed $50,000 a year for five years in in-kind donations, and last night the Commission voted to become the guarantor of last resort for at most $900,000 in costs associated with the Bay Center renovations that are part of the deal. That money will come from Tourism Development Tax (TDT or “Bed Tax”) funds, not general revenue, and is meant to be a worst-case scenario rather than an expected total cost. Moreover, Palmer says several of the partner agencies have said they would share the costs. Specifically, the Sun Belt Conference, the Bay Center management company (formerly SMG, now ASM Global), and even the Ice Flyers might share costs because they benefit from the resulting improvements to the facility. Those upgrades include a new scoreboard, WiFi upgrades, a new scoring table, and locker room refurbishment. In addition, part of the deal involves storing the baskets and flooring Sun Belt will use for the tournament, which may also be usable by the Bay Center for other possible events throughout the year.