The NCAA has been told that the Palestra and the Liacouras Center would be available for 2017 NCAA tournaments games that need a home, several sources said Wednesday.
The Wells Fargo Center had originally bid for the 2017 dates but now is booked for the March 17-19 period that is open because the NCAA pulled seven championship events from North Carolina this week in reaction to a state law that the NCAA and other critics say is discriminatory toward LGBT people.
The women's soccer final four, originally scheduled for Dec. 2 and 4 in Cary, N.C., also needs a home, and Philadelphia is looking into the possibility of offering to host that tournament. The women's lacrosse championship next May also is now in play.
"Conversations are under way with all of our venue partners to look at this new opportunity," said Larry Needle, executive director PHL Sports, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Obviously, we have a fantastic history of hosting NCAA events."
One source who did not want to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations and who had been in contact with the NCAA said it was made clear what the logistical hurdles would be at the Palestra, which has an official capacity of 8,722 but would seat less for NCAA tournament games. That round of play starts with eight schools playing in a single day, four in a day session and four at night. The Liacouras Center seats 10,206.
Ike Richman, Comcast Spectacor spokesman, provided this statement about the Wells Fargo Center: "We have a tremendous relationship with the NCAA. We are coming off a very successful 2016 NCAA Men's East Regionals. Unfortunately, we do not have any dates available at Wells Fargo Center for 2017. We recently submitted proposals to host the NCAA in 2019, 2020 2021, or 2022 with either men's basketball, women's basketball, wrestling or the Frozen Four. We remain hopeful that the NCAA will return to Philadelphia in the near future."
While most pro arenas are booked for that time period, the NCAA is expected to get a sizeable response from larger college arenas interested in hosting.
The biggest hurdle for hosting basketball games in Philadelphia might not even be logistical as much as geographic. The games were to be played in Greensboro, N.C. Other venues such as Columbia, S.C., would draw support in ACC country. Look for College Park, Md., as another possibility.
"They certainly have opened it up nationally," Needle said of all the events, which includes others such as Division II baseball and Division III women's tennis. "These things are always very competitive. We understand that. Obviously, we're proud of the long record of success we've had working with the NCAA."