SEC ROAD SHOW
Cities that have hosted the SEC men's basketball tournament on multiple occasions:
• Atlanta - 13
• Louisville - 12
• Birmingham - 6
• Knoxville - 5
• Nashville - 5
• Lexington - 3
• New Orleans - 3
• Baton Rouge - 2
• Memphis - 2
Source: SEC office
Atlanta remains the permanent home of the Southeastern Conference football championship, but the Peach State capital no longer is the primary locale for the league's basketball tournament.
Beginning tonight, Nashville's Bridgestone Arena will serve as host three of the next four years. The 18,160-seat facility has housed the SEC tournament three times previously, most recently in 2010, and it is scheduled to host the league event five times this decade.
Next year's SEC tournament will be in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, which hosted nine of the 14 league events from 1995 to 2008.
"Atlanta is certainly an important venue for us as we go forward, and we always want to have a presence there, but we started looking to move the tournament around to different locations," SEC executive associate commissioner Mark Womack said Tuesday. "We've been in New Orleans and Tampa and Nashville as well, and I think Nashville gives us a centrally located city in a traditional basketball type of setting rather than a dome setting."
The Georgia Dome is the only dome currently in the rotation for the SEC, which held its 1996 and 2003 tournaments in the Louisiana Superdome but staged last year's event at the New Orleans Arena. The SEC tournament had an attendance average of 17,441 three years ago in Nashville and 17,944 two years ago in Atlanta before it slipped to 14,039 last year.
Having a dome still in the mix is advantageous, according to Womack, since many NCAA regional sites are staged in them.
"We're happy that the tournament is in Nashville, and I think it's the best venue that we have, personally," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "The arena is terrific, and with the smaller venue tickets are harder to come by. It seems like there are more people there because the arena is fuller. I just think it's a great place to have the tournament.
"We certainly enjoyed New Orleans last year probably more than any other tournament we've been to, and Atlanta does a great job with it, but I'm just biased to Nashville for obvious reasons."
The SEC tournament hasn't been held at a campus facility since 1993, when Kentucky's Rupp Arena was the site for a third time. Vanderbilt's campus is within three miles of Bridgestone Arena, but there have not been any coaches griping this week about the Commodores having a proximity edge.
Vanderbilt is 2-3 in SEC tournaments held at Bridgestone Arena, having reached the 2010 semifinals before losing to Mississippi State.
"I'm not sure Vandy has any advantage," Georgia's Mark Fox said. "I don't see that at all. They have plenty of advantages on their home court with the way it's set up, but I don't think they have any when they move downtown."
Said South Carolina's Frank Martin: "It's a neutral court. It's not like Vanderbilt plays or practices there."
Louisville hosted the SEC tournament 12 consecutive years from 1941 to 1952, and then it was discontinued until 1979. Birmingham hosted four of the first six events after it resumed.
No team has traveled more fans to the SEC tournament through the years than Kentucky, and more blue is expected with Nashville being such an easy destination.
"You can put Kentucky overseas, and they'll probably outdraw whoever they play against," Martin said.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...