CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game is staying in Charlotte.
ACC commissioner John Swofford announced that the conference and the Charlotte Sports Foundation have reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension that will keep the football championship game in Charlotte through 2019. The game has been played in Charlotte since 2010.
Swofford made the announcement at a news conference Monday at Bank of America Stadium, home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
Swofford called it "an easy decision."
The game has thrived since moving from Tampa, Fla., to a more centralized location in Charlotte four years ago with an average yearly attendance of nearly 70,000 fans the past four years.
The 2011 game between Clemson and Virginia Tech set an ACC championship game record with 73,675 fans attending the title matchup in Charlotte. Since 2010, the ACC ranks second among all conferences in total attendance at its football championship games.
"There is no question that Charlotte has supported this game more than any place we’ve been," Swofford said.
Swofford said Charlotte has provided a great footprint for the game because of its centralized location and the Panthers facility, which is considered one of the NFL’s top venues and is currently undergoing a $112.4 million renovation.
"We have a facility of this caliber that is being modernized," Swofford said. "You can stay and eat, party and walk to the game, and then go back and do it all over again. Coupled that with the support we have received and it became a pretty easy decision."
The six-year deal coincides with the extension of the Belk Bowl, the annual bowl game played in late December in Charlotte which also has a deal that runs through the 2019 season.
Charlotte Sports Foundation executive director Will Webb said he’s pleased with the six-year agreement and wants to keep the game in Charlotte for even longer.
"There won’t be a better venue for a conference place to play the championship than here in Charlotte," Webb said.
Webb said the Charlotte Sports Foundation is considering selling "collegiate seat licenses," which would allow fans to purchase a ticket to guarantee their same seat for both games.
Swofford said the conference only briefly considered hosting the game at the home site of the conference’s top team, but quickly decided not to pursue that option.
"First of all, from a competitive standpoint our coaches and teams prefer a neutral site," Swofford said. "They feel that is best for a championship game. But the success it has had in Charlotte over the last four years meant that that conversation didn’t grow legs, so to be speak."
This past season, Florida State defeated Duke in the ACC championship game en route to winning the BCS national championship.