The Atlantis resort on Paradise Island.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Atlantis last night said the fate of the Thanksgiving US college basketball tournament it traditionally hosts every year is inextricably tied to when the resort re-opens.
Responding to Tribune Business inquiries, after multiple US media outlets reported that Battle 4 Atlantis will likely be moved to an alternative location, the Paradise Island mega resort said in a brief statement: "Any decision on Battle 4 Atlantis 2020 will be confirmed once we have made a decision regarding a re-opening date."
Atlantis last week said it was still "evaluating" when to re-open as it assesses COVID-19 infection rates in major US source markets such as Florida, New York and Texas, as well as here in The Bahamas. No date has yet been forthcoming, and the likelihood of Battle 4 Atlantis being held at its normal location will grow less with each day that one is not announced.
One Atlantis insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, told this newspaper "that's a big loss" when informed of the uncertainties surrounding the eight-college tournament. "That's huge," they said. "It's a great thing for Atlantis; advertising, publicity and business."
Battle 4 Atlantis has been used by the mega resort for the better part of a decade to help kickstart the Thanksgiving holiday weekend that traditionally signals the start of the peak winter tourism season. The college teams and their fans boost occupancies and other revenue streams at Atlantis, which also benefits from the TV coverage and resulting publicity with millions of potential visitors.
George Markantonis, Atlantis former president and managing director, said in 2014 that the tournament would result in 100 per cent occupancy at the Paradise Island resort over the key Thanksgiving holiday. He added that it also helped counter the effects of high air fares, which peak over the Thanksgiving weekend in the US due to travel demand.
And, the previous year, Mr Markantonis said: "In 2012, that tournament generated advertising value of $9.2m and publicity value of $27.6m. We expect it to be at least the same this year. A lot of this comes from the live TV coverage of all the games across North America, and also print media across the US, including all major news outlets."
The ‘Battle 4 Atlantis’, featuring eight top National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams, has been billed as the top Division One NCAA pre-season event for US college basketball. This year's version, which is supposed to be held from November 25-27 in Atlantis' Imperial Arena, is scheduled to feature Utah, Duke, Creighton, Ohio State, West Virginia, Memphis, Wichita State and Texas A&M.
However, US sports reporters have suggested that plans are underway to move the tournament to a different location. One of the sites said to be under discussion is the Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, although others are also said to be under consideration.
Such a move would come as little surprise in the COVID-19 environment. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has been forced to complete its season without fans in the so-called Orlando "bubble", making it unlikely that any of the eight college teams would seek to bring their supporters to The Bahamas given the health and safety risks.
And the logistics of such an undertaking, as well as The Bahamas' own COVID-19 restrictions such as the 14-day quarantine and negative COVID-19 PCR test, represent further obstacles to holding Battle 4 Atlantis here in 2020.