High atop the deck of the amphibious assault carrier USS Bataan, crews are working diligently to get the ship's deck ready for Friday's Navy-Marine Corps Classic NCAA basketball game between the Florida Gators and Georgetown Hoyas.
"We're very excited to come down here because, of course, the city of Jacksonville has had a very long, friendly relationship with the United States Navy," says mass communications specialist Chief Will Borrall, public information officer for the USS Bataan.
As of Monday morning, crews had built most of the stadium seating and were working on laying down the hardwood floor tiles that will eventually make up the basketball court. The ship is 840 feet long and 106 feet wide, and the game will be played on the ship's rear flight deck. Chief Borrall says the ship's crew is excited to show off the Bataan and even more excited to take part in the experience.
"The crew is extremely excited. Of course, young military members always love sports. That's one of the givens if you have a group of young sailors working for you is that there will be some sports rivalries going on. Every single Gators fan on board all the way up to the executive officer, who is a huge Gator fan, they are already talking smack. And of course, the Hoya supporters are joining in."
Borrall says every sailor will be able to watch the game even if he or she is not on the deck. This is the second time the NCAA has held one of its games on the deck of a U.S. naval ship. In 2011, the University of North Carolina and Michigan State University played on the deck of the U.S.S. Carl Vinsen, a nuclear-powered carrier. He says both teams will get a chance to come practice on the court before the game to get a feel for the surface.