In July, officials with the Navy and the Morale Entertainment Foundation signed an agreement for the Carrier Classic basketball game between North Carolina and Michigan State on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Veterans Day. If all goes according to plan, it will be the first NCAA hoops game on an active flat top.
The carrier was actually on deployment recently doing routine operations. Don’t worry, it’s back in port now and preparations are under way for the carrier to host the game.
It’s not an easy process, to be sure.
The nine-day process of constructing an arena to seat 7,000 spectators is estimated to involve more than 150 construction personnel. Pieces of the arena, such as the floor, bleachers, lights and tents will be brought from all over the United States in preparation for the event.
“There are thousands of moving parts that we’re trying to fit together, between the Navy, the Morale Entertainment Foundation, the schools, and ESPN. The real challenge is seeing how all the parts will mesh,” said Jim Preston, a Morale Entertainment Foundation volunteer. “We have the right people for the job — people who have helped coordinate past Olympics and Super Bowl halftime shows. The end result is going to be something to see.”
In addition to all the moving parts and intricacies of setting up a basketball court on the carrier’s flight deck, the construction crew will produce a secondary arena in the ship’s hangar bay, to be used in the event of inclement weather.
“We’re hoping we don’t have to build the set-up in the hangar bay at all, as we’d have a lot of disappointed people,” said George Moore, lead assistant of the Morale Entertainment Foundation. Moore explained that the overhead in the hangar bay would restrict bleacher seating and significantly reduce the number of spectators in the stands. “Hopefully, the odds will be in our favor.”
Construction of the court and arena is scheduled to be completed Wednesday, with the Spartans and Tar Heels scheduled to practice together on the finished court Thursday.
Below is a photo gallery depicting the process:
A floating history lesson
Of course, the USS Carl Vinson is best known as the place from where Osama Bin Laden’s body was sent to sea earlier this year. However, in the three decades since the carrier was commissioned, it has had a decorated history. Here are some of the highlights leading up to its most famous mission.
|Source: U.S. Navy|
|1980||On March 15, Congressman Carl Vinson became the first person in the history of the United States to witness a launching in his honor.|
|1982||USS Carl Vinson is commissioned on March 13, 1982.|
|1983||After extensive work up and sea trials, the ship with a crew of almost 6,000 Sailors departed Norfolk, Va., on March 1, 1983, and embarked on an eight-month around-the-world cruise. Carl Vinson steamed in the waters of the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, South China Sea, East Sea/Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean en route to its new homeport of Naval Air Station Alameda, Calif. On Oct. 28, 1983, Carl Vinson sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time as it entered San Francisco Bay.|
|1984||Carl Vinson received the highest marks awarded an aircraft carrier during an operational readiness examination in February. In March, the ship and crew became “San Francisco’s Own” in a formal adoption ceremony. In May, Carl Vinson participated in RIMPAC ’84, a multi-national exercise involving ships from nations which “Rim of the Pacific” including Canada, Japan, Australia, as well as the United Kingdom.On Oct. 14, Carl Vinson began a seven-month Western Pacific deployment.|
|1995||From Aug. 26 to Sept. 3, Carl Vinson participated in Exercise Ke Koa and the commemoration of the end of World War II in the Pacific. During the commemoration, President Bill Clinton visited the ship in Hawaii and 12 historic warplanes from World War II were launched from the flight deck. One month later, the ship returned to the San Francisco Bay area and participated in Fleet Week, ’95, launching World War II aircraft, an F/A-18 Hornet and F-14 Tomcat, and an unprecedented launch and recovery of an S-3 Viking in San Francisco Bay. The carrier received its second Meritorious Unit Commendation for the 50th Commemoration of VJ Day 1995.|
|1996||Carl Vinson departed May 14 for its seventh deployment to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf. The ship participated in Exercise Rugged Nautilus and Operations Desert Strike and Southern Watch before returning to Alameda Nov. 14. The carrier received its second Battle “E,” its third Meritorious Unit Commendations and its fourth Admiral Flatley Award.|
|1998||The carrier steamed from Bremerton in early Nov. for its eighth deployment to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf. On Dec. 19, Carl Vinson launched air strikes in support of Operation Desert Fox, and continued support for Operation Southern Watch in enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Vinson was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation Medal and was once again was awarded the Battle “E” for Efficiency.|
|1999||The ship maintained pressure on Iraq by launching several air strikes against selected targets located in the no-fly zone of southern Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch from January to March. As a result Vinson was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation. In July, the ship entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for an 11-month Drydocked Planned Incremental Availability. The Navy spent more than $230 million for equipment upgrades, a new local-area network, new berthings, and several quality-of-life upgrades.|
|2001||On Sept. 11, as our nation was rocked by the terrorist attacks, USS Carl Vinson was rounding the tip of India en route the Arabian Gulf to enforce the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq in support Operation Southern Watch. At that moment, the Gold Eagle changed course and headed to the North Arabian Sea, where our battle group would stand ready to answer the call of freedom. That call came, and on Oct. 7, 2001, just 36 hours after new commanding officer, Capt. Richard Wren took command, the Carl Vinson and her battle group launched the first strikes in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. For 72 days, the crew remained on station and together with Carrier Air Wing Eleven conducted more than 4,200 combat sorties in the War on Terrorism. In mid-December, Carl Vinson stood down the watch and headed home, visiting Singapore for Christmas.|
|2003||On Jan. 13, the strike group responded to the world’s need for a stabilizing presence in the Western Pacific by ensuring theater security in cooperation with friends and allies in the region. While under way, the Navy’s deployment schedule began shifting to implement a new Fleet Response Plan (FRP). The shift required Carl Vinson to extend its deployment more than two months. After nearly nine months at sea, “America’s Favorite Aircraft Carrier” returned to Bremerton Sept. 19 to a hero’s welcome. During the final three months of 2003 the mighty “Gold Eagle” once again assumed the role of the West Coast’s ready carrier.|
Once the teams hit the court — whichever court it may be – fans will notice something else a little different about this game: the uniforms both teams will have on.
Michigan State will wear camouflaged home white uniforms while North Carolina will wear light blue camouflaged uniforms. No player names will appear on the back of the jerseys. Instead, “U.S.A.” will replace players’ last names above the uniform number on the back of all the jerseys.
“I think the uniforms are pretty cool,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “They definitely put the spotlight on our military and that’s what this is for. I like that instead of player names, they put ‘U.S.A.’ on the back. For once, everybody can be on the same team.
“When I spent some time coaching the troops in Kuwait a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to get to wear fatigues twice. That was certainly a thrill for me, and if a player doesn’t get a little more excited wearing this, there’s something wrong.”
Greetings, Mr. President
President Barack Obama announced last month that he will be among the 7,000-or-so fans in attendance at the Carrier Classic.
The president, a huge hoops fan, will be in his element, even if it is an unusual venue for big-time basketball.
Known for playing pickup games, Obama needed 12 stitches in his lip after he was inadvertently elbowed during such a scrimmage last November. His brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, is the coach at Oregon State. Obama has filled out an NCAA tournament bracket the past three years for ESPN, which will televise the Carrier Classic.
Plus, he has a history with the Tar Heels.
Obama played a pickup game with UNC’s players during a 2008 campaign stop. The following spring, he correctly picked the Tar Heels to win the 2009 NCAA title — which they did by routing Michigan State — and then hosted them at the White House.