Aircraft carrier to be site of unique college basketball tip-off

Story highlights

  • North Carolina, Michigan State will play November 11 aboard the USS Carl Vinson
  • Work on converting the carrier to an arena is under way, will be finished next week
  • Great care will be taken not to harm the flight deck's non-skid surface
  • President Obama will attend the game on the ship, moored in San Diego
The start of the college basketball season is always a big deal, and this year even more so, what with the NBA riding the bench. But this year's first big game will make history, the first ever played on an aircraft carrier.
North Carolina and Michigan State will tip off on November 11, Veterans Day, aboard the USS Carl Vinson at pier side at the San Diego Naval Base. On hand will be honorary captains James Worthy, a UNC alum, and Magic Johnson, who went to Michigan State. (Michael Jordan was orginally expected to be UNC's honorary captain, but it was unclear why he changed his mind).
President Obama, a diehard college hoops fan, is expected to be there, as well.
The work of converting the Nimitz-class carrier from a floating city/military airfield into not one but two basketball arenas has begun. One arena is being built up on the flight deck, where the game will likely be played. In the event of bad weather (not so likely in San Diego) they'll have a somewhat smaller backup arena down below in the hangar deck.
About 7,000 fans will be able to see the event in person. The game is scheduled to be carried live on ESPN.
Pictures posted on the Carl Vinson's official Facebook page show some of the work in progress.
The bleachers will not sit directly on the flight deck's special non-skid surface. Each leg of the bleachers is being placed on pieces of wood more than an inch thick. Not one hole will be drilled into the ship's deck or hull. Instead, the court and bleachers will be anchored to the flat-top with the existing tie-downs normally used to keep warplanes safely in place while the ship is under way.
The basketball floor will start going down next Tuesday and all will be ready to go Wednesday, two days before tip-off.