ACC tourney tix available to public

ATLANTA -- In another sign of the trying economic times, Atlantic Coast Conference officials said Tuesday tickets are available for the men's basketball tournament.

The ACC will make tickets available to the general public for the first time since 1966. They go on sale starting next Monday for the March 12-15 tournament, which will be held at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

While tournament seats are normally among the toughest in sports to land, ACC commissioner John Swofford attributed the availability to a "unique combination of playing this year's tournament in a dome during very trying economic times."

The Georgia Dome, normally the home of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, is the largest venue used for the ACC tournament, seating more than 30,000 in its basketball configuration. Last year, the facility gained notoriety when a tornado struck during the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament, forcing the remaining games to be shifted to nearby Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the Georgia Tech campus.

This will mark the second time the ACC tournament has been held at Georgia Dome, and it's scheduled to return in 2012 -- the only time in the next six years the event will leave its traditional home, the Greensboro Coliseum.

"Playing in the Georgia Dome provides a great stage for our conference teams and Atlanta has been a terrific partner," Swofford said in a statement. "Having already sold more tickets to this year's tournament than the capacity of any of our other venues, our schools felt it would be appropriate to offer the remaining tickets to college basketball fans in the Atlanta area."

All available seats are in the upper deck. The entire 11-game book must be purchased at a cost of $363 -- an average of $33 per game.

The ACC did not immediately respond to a query on how many tickets were still available for the tournament.

Tickets are normally sold out in advance through the 12 member schools, but the economic downturn made it tougher to find buyers. This will be the first public sale of tickets since the 1966 tournament, the last held at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C.