CORONADO, Calif. – For 48 hours, the USS Carl Vinson nuclear aircraft carrier has become a college basketball arena has it hosts the first annual “Carrier Classic”.
“It’s amazing,” exclaimed Cmdr. Paul Spedero of the Vinson, “There’s a basketball court and a stadium on our flight deck.”
On Thursday, finishing touches were put on the temporary arena aboard the ship based at the Naval Air Station North Island on Coronado.
The University of North Carolina Tarheels and Michigan State Spartans tip-off their respective regular seasons on the flight deck Friday afternoon.
“It’s bigger than a game,” said Spartans Head Coach Tom Izzo. “It’s bigger than North Carolina versus Michigan State. It’s kind of a dream come true.”
President Barack Obama will attend the game and participate in pick-up basketball beforehand with retired NBA stars and servicemen.
For the men and women on the USS Carl Vinson, the game is seen as a welcome break from routine and a sign of appreciation. Over the last two years, the carrier has deployed to Haiti after its earthquake, South America and most recently the Middle East. The USS Carl Vinson buried Osama Bin Laden at sea, a subject the ship’s commanding officer would not address.
“This is a great way for America to say thank you to these men and women,” said Capt. Bruce Lindsey. “They may not know them personally, but they know them through the news.”
Upon seeing the court, grandstands, lights, cameras and television screens surrounding the Vinson’s flight deck, those that serve on the carrier called it surreal.
“It’s a lot different from the normal,” ABHAN Andrew Cable said. “It’s a weird feeling not having control on everything. Everybody else is doing all the work.”
With rain in the forecast, event organizers initially said a second court would be built in the ship’s hangar, but officials decided to scrap that plan.
Officials said while work did start on another court, it was abandoned. If it rains, the game will be canceled.
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