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WUNC reports from Greensboro about Guilford County and surrounding area.

Greensboro Set to Host March Madness

Jeff Tiberii

The Men's NCAA basketball Tournament comes to Greensboro this week where North Carolina and Duke hope to survive and advance. The event typically brings tens of thousands of visitors and many millions of dollars to the region. On the floor the expectation is for some of the best basketball the sport has to offer. Off the court, there has been some timely madness as well.

Jeff Tiberi: It's pretty quiet in the Greensboro Coliseum three days before the most famous basketball tournament tips off here and around the country. A few workers scurry about, testing phone lines and occasionally checking in on a walkie-talkie. The NCAA hardwood floor has been laid down. And with the exception of no net hanging from either of the two rims, the venue is ready. Well, almost. Half a dozen workers are in the stands with their backs to the court. They're bending over and doing something behind every seat.

Latina Mills: We are putting NCAA stickers over all cup holders to cover-up the Pepsi logo. So all you see is the NCAA and nothing more.

Latina Mills is an usher supervisor at the Coliseum. She's smiling as she pulls off the back of another sticker, lets that drop to the ground, and slaps one more NCAA label on the next cup holder. She's been on the job about four years and has already done this tedious task once before.
Mills: Right now we're in section 107. We started in section 119 and we have to do the whole Coliseum, go around and cover each individual cup holder with these NCAA stickers. And we just take it row by row until we're done with upstairs and downstairs.

Fortunately, not every seat in the Coliseum has a cup holder. Unfortunately, about 11,000 do. Covering all of them will take her crew about eight hours. Mills says she holds no ill-will toward coca-cola, a corporate partner of the NCAA. You see, this tournament is a clean space, from an advertising standpoint. All commercial identification that can be spotted in the seating area has to be covered. As for those partners, the NCAA provides them with advertising opportunities elsewhere. There will be an official hotel brand of the tournament. Interactive areas outside venues will have exclusive sponsors, and of course CBS paid $11 billion for broadcasting rights. The NCAA controls a lot, but not everything.

Scott Johnson: The irony of it is, and the funny part is, is someone could be sitting there drinking a Pepsi out of a Pepsi bottle and that's not against the rules.

That's Scott Johnson, deputy director of the Coliseum. He says concession contracts for each individual site do not fall under the NCAA umbrella. Johnson has three shifts working around the clock, some workers assigned to make the space NCAA-ready. That includes covering more than just cup holders.

Johnson: We've gone to great expense to have some attractive NCAA type signage put over top of our Budweiser sign, our Bug Light sign, our Crown Auto Sign, Ticketmaster, Siemens.

Between signage and labor, Johnson says it costs $15,000 dollars to cover all the advertisements. But he notes that's a small price to pay for hosting a tournament with an estimated local economic impact of more than $15 million. Meanwhile, the Coliseum has a busy couple of weeks. For Mills and crew that means undoing the work they just did. Maybe you were wondering how much of a pain it is to get those stickers off?

Mills: They come off very easy, that's the good part. All you have to do is snatch it off. So it's not hard to pull it off at all. The hard part is just getting it on there perfectly so that it covers the cup holder.

Following two games on Sunday Mills and crew will pull all 11,000 stickers before the Bruce Springsteen concert on Monday night. She says it shouldn't take quite as long.


Jeff Tiberii covers politics for WUNC. Before that, he served as the station's Greensboro Bureau Chief.
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