Aircraft Carrier to Turn Into College Basketball Court for Veterans Day

Michigan State and North Carolina will face off on the USS Carl Vinson.

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U.S Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans / Released

Civilian contractors assemble bleachers while building a basketball arena on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

When your basketball game is on a massive aircraft carrier, why not have more than one court?

As two top-10 college basketball teams—Michigan State and North Carolina—prepare to play in the first-ever carrier classic in San Diego, crews must set up two different courts on the USS Carl Vinson in case the Southern California weather doesn’t hold out. And with rain in the forecast for San Diego Bay on Friday evening, nobody knows which of the two courts will get used.

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Part publicity stunt and part attempt to honor veterans, the 4 p.m. PT Quicken Loans Carrier Classic, televised by ESPN, has drawn plenty of interest, including that of President Barack Obama, who will attend the game. It’s the first time a college or professional basketball game will be played on an aircraft carrier.

But because of the iffy rain situation, setting up a 7,000-seat open-air arena on the 1,092-foot deck of the carrier, famous for dumping Osama bin Laden’s body into the ocean, isn’t the only mass rush going on aboard the carrier. Crews are also building a 4,000-seat identical floor in the carrier’s hangar bay below the flight deck, which normally houses helicopters and planes.

While Obama is priority number one, the Commander in Chief title goes a long way on a Navy carrier, Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, 2,000 San Diego Navy sailors and wounded service members who received a special invitation will have priority for the 4,000 indoor seats. (Imagine having a ticket to the game and then getting bumped by a few raindrops.)

The decision on whether to play indoors or outdoors will get made at 3 p.m. on Veterans Day and will depend only on the threat of precipitation. Officials say the outdoor court will be shielded from wind, so a wet wood floor serves as the lone concern.

To get things ready, 150 civilians started setting up on the ship on Nov. 1. But to ensure the moving parts properly meshed, crews constructed the court, lighting and seating offsite and are now simply relocating it to the carrier. Both outdoors and in.

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