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Battle at Atlantis
Basketball, Sun and Surf
By Ron Kapon, Contributing Travel Editor

New Providence Map
New York, NY - Let?s start with situating ourselves on the global map. New Providence (21 miles long and 7 miles wide) is the island home of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas and is located in the middle of the Bahamas archipelago of over 700 islands. These islands start within 50 miles of Miami and stretch hundreds of miles to the northern coasts of Haiti and Cuba and, surprisingly, only about 35 or so are populated with Nassau, Freeport and Paradise Island hosting most of the tourists. About two thirds of the population of around 260,000 live on New Providence. The city shopping area is compact and easy to leisurely explore on foot and I do not recommend renting a scooter unless you are used to driving on the left side of the road. When the cruise ships dock at Prince George Wharf in the downtown area one can stroll the city and look for bargains in the shops along Bay Street and in the straw markets. U.S. currency is accepted and is interchangeable with the Bahamian dollar. OK, now we know where we are and what to expect, for the most part. So much for geography and a touch of history and expectation.

There is no way to avoid coming through Bay Street from the airport on the way into the four-mile-wide Paradise Island where you will find Atlantis Paradise Island, a 3,400-room resort with 40 restaurants created by South African hotel magnate Sol Kerzner. The Coral and Beach Towers were first opened as Resorts International, changing its name to Atlantis when the Royal Towers were built in 1998. The 1,201 room Royal Towers contains the 10 room "Bridge Suite," one of the most expensive hotel rooms in the world at $25,000 a night although I firmly believe that price is negotiable for any displaying a scintilla of interest in availing themselves of same, someone with a home address that has Japan, Macau or a palace in the Middle East after the name registering.

In 2007, a 600-suite luxury hotel named The Cove Atlantis opened (with a Bobby Flay Mesa Grill) as well as the 497-room Reef Atlantis, which is a condominium hotel residence. The resort caters to its expected clientele with a marina designed to dock large yachts while the eastern side of the marina features the Marina Village, a small shopping center with numerous restaurants and stores. The Harborside Resort at Atlantis is located on the south side of the marina and consists of 392 villas and a harbor-front restaurant, offering all-day shuttle service to Atlantis. If the Coral and Beach Towers are "Coach," the Royal Towers is Business Class. If the Cove and The Reef are First Class there remains the One Only Ocean Club as a "Private Jet." Other items of which to take note are the 18-hole golf course with a Jean-Georges Vongerichten Dune Restaurant who, incidentally, has also opened Caf? Martinique in Marina Village serving classic French gourmet fare and the casino is the largest in the Caribbean with a Nobu Restaurant next to its entrance.

Trying to describe the water activities and others offered is a near impossible task but I will give it a shot. In the space of four days I was able to enjoy their: 20 swimming areas, 12 different pools, 3 miles of beach, a health spa, fitness center, tennis and basketball courts, 12 rock climbing surfaces and a seven-acre snorkeling lagoon. Aquaventure was opened in 2007 and the 141-acre, 200 million gallon wet playpen combines slides, lazy rivers, and rapids that wind into one large waterscape. The centerpiece of the attraction is the Power Tower with its four waterslides that include The Abyss, The Drop, The Falls and The Surge.

The Cove Atlantis
The 600-suite luxury hotel The Cove Atlantis.
Aquaventure also offers The Current, a mile long, three million gallon water ride complete with waves and artificial tidal surges, which the brave fearless advantage. At the Royal Towers is the Mayan Temple entertainment attraction consisting of four major slides ... Leap of Faith, the Challenger Slides, the Serpent Slide, and the Jungle Slide. The Dig hosts a series of aquariums located beneath the lobby of the Royal Towers and is the world's largest open-air marine habitat. Hundreds of different aquatic species can be spotted in the Dig's various tanks, such as angelfish, sharks, manta rays and various types of jellyfish. If one observes the bottom of the floors in the different aquariums, wreckage and debris will be scattered about representing the "Lost City of Atlantis." A Predator Lagoon is full of sawfish, barracuda and stingray plus a 100-foot clear acrylic tunnel that runs underwater, allowing visitors unobstructed views of the marine environment. Dolphin Cay is the 14-acre dolphin interaction and education center, home to 16 displaced Hurricane Katrina dolphins. There are shallow and deep interaction along with sea lion programs. When the kids are not in the water there are activities that free up the parents. Included are: Atlantis Kids Adventure with movies, games, computers, culinary kitchen and arts and crafts for kids ages 3-12. Club Rush is a fully supervised "No Adults" tweens club. Recently opened are Crush, a state-of-the-art teen club for ages 13-17 with an interactive Internet lounge, gaming stadium and 1,500 square-foot dance club.

Can adults have fun here? Absolutely. Water-logged when done? Without question. Great place to bring the kids? Assuredly. Decent amount of money in the bank or pocket to make this trip? Yup. But, continuing on...

Atlantis LIVE- In the last few years, Atlantis has made an effort to host concerts and other events. In 2010, Jerry Seinfeld performed at the Atlantis resort as well as the Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, NSYNC, and others of similar fame. Miss Teen USA 2008 took place at the resort and, in 2009, the 58th Miss Universe pageant was held at Atlantis, the first time in the Bahamas.

Turning to sports, they recently hosted a basketball tourney titled Battle at Atlantis. The way it was formatted was that a basketball team can play in a "Qualifying Regular-Season Multiple-Team Event" (commonly referred to as a "QRMTE" or an "Exempt Event"). They can play either 27 contests and one QRMTE or 29 contests during a season in which the team does not participate in a QRMTE. Basically, the NCAA permits schools to play 29 regular season games, but schools can play up to 31 games in the regular season by participating in a QRMTE/Exempt Event (27 regular season games, plus 3 or 4 in the event).

NCAA Bylaw, currently defines a QRMTE/Exempt Event as one in which: (a) the event is sponsored by the NCAA, an active or affiliated member institution or a member conference of the NCAA and must take place in Canada, Mexico or the United States or one of its territories; (b) the event includes no more than four contests per school and concludes not later than 14 days after the first contest of the event; (c) participation is limited, by conference, to one team per conference and, by school, to not more than once in the same event in any 4-year period; and (d) each participating institution is using 27 games plus the QRMTE/Exempt Event as its maximum contest limitation for that season. Recently passed legislation added The Bahamas to the list of territories in item (a) above, effective August 1, 2011, with plans to hold an eight-team tournament of Division I schools over Thanksgiving weekend.

Coaches want more games, not less, so none play in non-exempt tournaments. A few years ago there were 10 exempt tournaments and, today, there are almost 50 Invitationals, Classics, Challenges and Shootouts. The Great Alaskan Shootout and the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii were started in the 1960s to help ease the scheduling problems of non-mainland schools. Now, both of these tournaments are in danger of being discontinued. The NCAA now owns the NIT Season Tip-Off. In 2010, I have watched the Coaches vs. Cancer and NIT tournament in New York as well as the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Maui Invitational, Cancun Challenge, Old Spice Classic (Orlando) and CBE Classic in Kansas City.

One coach told me that at Battle of Atlantis he gets money for his program, the kids get game experience and play on neutral courts, they bond as a team, see interesting sites, and it is great for recruiting. In mid-December, I was invited to cover "Battle of Atlantis" with Virginia Tech playing Mississippi State and Georgia Tech playing Richmond in two non-exempt games.

George Markantonis
George Markantonis is President and Managing Director of Kerzner International Bahamas.
George Markantonis, President and Managing Director of Kerzner International Bahamas, said, at the Friday night team banquet, "We spent more than a year finding the four teams, purchasing the hardwood floor that met NCAA standards and the baskets and lights. The games were held in the convention center that hosted the 2009 Miss Universe Pageant as well as our live concerts. We have set up seating for up to 4.500 with food and souvenir concessions set up outside the ballroom. The NCAA Legislative Council will make a decision in January regarding our exempt status and then the NCAA member schools vote. If passed, there will be an eight-team tournament next year with four or five top-level teams and the remainder of the field will come from smaller schools and conferences."

The Bahamas are a basketball crazy nation and Mr. Markantonis promised that some of the profits from future tournaments would be used to build a basketball court for every school in the Bahamas. By the way, Rick Fox, from the Bahamas and former Los Angeles Laker player, was at the games together with Len Elmore, another former NBA player and ESPN college basketball analyst who also spoke at the Friday night team dinner.

The Bahamas are less than a three-hour non-stop flight from New York City and about an hour from Florida. All four teams were from the Eastern Seaboard area, which worked for everyone concerned. Atlantis even opened Aquaventure an hour early on Sunday so the teams could try out the facilities before returning to the U.S. It was a first class experience for the players, fans and press.

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