PENSACOLA, Fla. (WSFA) - Beginning next year, the city in which the Sun Belt Conference basketball championships are played will change.
From 2021 until at least 2025 the scene will shift from New Orleans to Pensacola, Fla. This is the first time the conference will play the men’s championship in the Sunshine State. The women’s championship was held at the USF Dome in Tampa in 1988.
“To build on the rich basketball history across our men’s and women’s programs in the Sun Belt, it was important to find a home for our championships where we could grow and create new traditions for our entire membership,” said Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill. “Pensacola is an energized community that has embraced our conference and already is a premier destination for Sun Belt fans and alumni.”
In that time, the men’s and women’s basketball championships will shift back to 12-team formats.
Next year’s games will be played simultaneously at the Pensacola Bay Center and Harsell Arena on the campus of Pensacola State College, with the semifinals and championship games played at the Bay Center. Both games are currently slated for live coverage with the women’s final airing on ESPNU and the men’s final on either ESPN or ESPN2.
Pensacola was chosen through a bid process managed by the Sun Belt office and a review process voted on and approved by the league’s Presidents and Chancellors and Directors of Athletics.
“We are excited to roll out the red carpet for the entire Sun Belt family and create memorable championship experiences for all,” said Pensacola Sports President/CEO Ray Palmer. “With the staggering number of world-class athletes and champions who call Pensacola home, hosting the Sun Belt Basketball Championships is a great opportunity to showcase our City of Champions.”
The 2021 Sun Belt Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships are scheduled for March 5-8.
These are not the first changes to the location of a Sun Belt Conference Championship tournament for a sport. Starting this year until 2024, Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery will host the Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament.