If you’re like me and know nothing about basketball, it’s pretty easy to breeze by mention of a NCAA Division I Men and Women’s Basketball Tournament happening at the Pensacola Bay Center this week.
However, I am here to tell you why this tournament is kind of a big deal and the fun that can be had even for us non-basketball enthusiasts. The Sun Belt Conference (SBC) has been around since 1976 — that’s almost 50 years! And since 2021, Pensacola has acted as a gracious host to 14 Men’s and 14 Women’s college basketball teams from across the Southeast of the United States and will continue to do so until 2025.
Bringing the Sun Belt to Pensacola was made possible through the efforts of Pensacola Sports, one of the oldest non-profit organizations in the city’s community, whose sole objective is to bring sporting events to our shining city. The SBC continues to bring millions of tourism dollars to Pensacola each year. Dollars that help fund Pensacola even when the tourists have celebrated their wins or mourned their losses and left. Which simply means, you just have to be a fan of Pensacola to be a fan of the Sun Belt Conference.
If you’re not a basketball fan, here’s why you should attend:
1) The excitement and entertainment — I don’t care who you are, there is two seconds left on the clock, the score is tied and a shot is taken from the 3-point line. You’re on your feet, you’re screaming at your neighbor and you’re empty popcorn box has been violated from gripping it with anticipation. Also, don’t forget about the entertainment from the cheer squads and team bands either — highly underrated!
2) The concessions — nothing beats a sports game hotdog and draft beer.
3) SBC free Fan Fest — taking place outside the Pensacola Bay Center on March 4 from 9am-1pm, there will be food, drinks, music and games before the Men’s Quarterfinal Games. Fun for the entire family!
4) Sun Belt Dribble Drive — The 2023 Sun Belt Conference Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine Dribble Drive is scheduled for Saturday, March 4th beginning at 1:00pm at the Pensacola Bay Center. Children ages 3-12 are welcome to join in on the fun and dribble their basketball around the venue grounds and into the Bay Center where games will be taking place.
5) Pensacola Deals and Promotions — over twenty different businesses around town including restaurants and hotels are offering specials for those who are attending the conference. Find all the participants here.
So, long story short. Yes, the Sun Belt Conference is for basketball fans near and far, but it also for anyone who loves Pensacola and loves having a good time. For all the details, schedule and tickets you can head to the Visit Pensacola website.