ACC football descends on Charlotte

CHARLOTTE – Former Florida State defensive end Everette Brown and former Virginia Tech tight end Jeff King are excited that their college football programs are visiting their back yard this weekend.

Unfortunately for Brown and King, they'll be nowhere near home when the Seminoles and Hokies meet in the Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game on Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium.

"Too bad we won't be here," Brown said, "but we'll all be watching it."

While the Panthers prepare for Sunday's road game against the Seattle Seahawks, their home field is hosting the ACC title game for the first time.

"I'm looking forward to watching the game on TV," King said. "I wish those guys the best. Go Hokies, for sure."

The way the Panthers organization looks at the event, it's a victory regardless of which team triumphs.

The game will provide a major economic boost for Charlotte. The two Florida cities – Jacksonville and Tampa – that hosted the first five ACC championships had trouble consistently filling seats, but Saturday's game is sold out.

"It's going to be a tremendous event for the city and for the stadium," said Scott Paul, stadium operations manager for Bank of America Stadium. "We have a huge geographic advantage being that eight of the 12 ACC schools are within a three-hour drive. It just works here.

"Ticket sales were great. We were fortunate with two great schools getting in the game, but we had a good start before that. We were over 40,000 sold before we knew either of the schools."

Since the conclusion of the Panthers' last home game on Nov. 21, Paul has been working countless hours with his staff, ACC staff and members of the game's organizing committee to get everything ready for kickoff.

One of the most challenging tasks had to do with the field itself and the process of replacing Panthers and NFL logos with ACC and sponsor logos.

"The middle part of the field has been there for seven years, so we were dealing with some 10-inch roots that we had to cut out," Paul said. "Having two weeks helped us tremendously."

The stadium has hosted college football games before – the Meinke Car Care Bowl on an annual basis as well as occasional regular season games. This, however, is the biggest undertaking yet, and Paul hopes the stadium gets to take it on beyond the 2011 game that Charlotte already has been awarded.

"We would love to host this game long-term," Paul said. "This game fits in Charlotte."

While many involved in the process have an eye pointed toward the future, Panthers players like King, linebacker James Anderson and wide receiver David Clowney on the Virginia Tech side and Brown on the Florida State side are just thinking about the here-and-now.

"I think we're going to get it done," Brown said. "I was kidding with the guys earlier that Virginia Tech has been having too good of a season since James Madison (when the Hokies fell to 0-2 before winning 10 games in a row). Sometimes things are too good to be true, so we're going to come in and flood the city with garnet and gold."

King laughed at the notion, predicting that Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the Hokies' vaunted special teams units would put Tech over the top. King even planned make it a little more interesting by making a wager with Brown.

"He's a first-round, second-round pick, so I've got to make out a little bit," King said. "He's got kind of deep pockets."

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