|CIAA basketball tournament to Charlotte: See y'all|
|Showcase moves to Baltimore in 2021|
|Published Tuesday, January 8, 2019|
Sometimes, it’s just good to get away for awhile.
The CIAA basketball tournament, which has been played at Spectrum Center since 2006, is moving to Baltimore, Maryland, starting in 2021. Baltimore beat out Charlotte and Norfolk, Virginia, which was bidding to return the CIAA to its tournament portfolio in addition to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, a Division I league.
“This is an exciting time for the CIAA as we have an opportunity to bring the basketball tournament to a new market, moving it closer to many of our northern institutions who have travelled to Charlotte for more than a decade,” CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said.
In 2018, the tournament brought over 140,000 fans to Charlotte, with an economic impact of $50.5 million, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
Aside from basketball, tournament week drew thousands of people to Charlotte for parties and other events unrelated to the league or games.
Moving to Baltimore is partially a response to demand among fans and leaders of the league’s northernmost campuses to try a new city, said Fayetteville State University Chancellor James Anderson, who chairs the CIAA’s board of directors.
Charlotte is the southernmost venue in tournament history, and after more than a decade with one site, CRVA chief Tom Murray understood the possibility of a venue change.
“We certainly knew it was going to be competitive and we knew the board was considering whether or not it would be healthier for the tournament to be on a rotation,” he said. “Not that they were upset with Charlotte, but that they’re doing everything they can to make sure the tournament remains successful.”
CIAA leaders wanted its next host city to commit an arena with minimum capacity between 8,000-10,000, 500 hotel rooms for tournament use and cap hotel room prices at $200 per night for fans.
“We are thrilled that the CIAA organization has recognized what we all know very well – Baltimore is a city of unsurpassed hospitality and civic and cultural amenities that make it a destination for hundreds of thousands of visitors annually,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming the CIAA, its players and many fans, and to hosting these major tournaments in a way that demonstrates what a truly great city we are, and what a great decision this will be for all.”
Eight of the CIAA’s 13 member schools, including Charlotte’s Johnson C. Smith University, are based in North Carolina, and a ninth, Claflin University, is in South Carolina.
Two members – Virginia State and Virginia Union universities – are in Virginia. Lincoln University is in Pennsylvania and Bowie State University is in Maryland.
Ultimately, Charm City – Baltimore’s nickname – put together a bid package and vision for the tournament that won over league’s leadership.
“The teams and cities that presented their bids to the board of directors were energetic and impressive,” Anderson said. “What stood out about Baltimore was their vision of how the CIAA basketball tournament could be woven into the fabric of the city. Also important was Baltimore’s commitment to provide scholarships for the CIAA institutions and overall support of the hotel and business communities.”
The CIAA flourished for most of its run in Charlotte, but attendance dropped off over the last three years, leading tournament organizers to curtain the upper bowl at 19,000-seat Spectrum Center in 2018.
In 2017, the league, Charlotte organizers and the Charlotte Hornets agreed to move first- and second-round games to Bojangles’ Coliseum to accommodate smaller crowds.
The Charlotte-based CIAA will continue the downsizing approach with Baltimore’s 11,000-seat Royal Farms Arena, built in 1962.
The stadium is the former home of the NBA’s Baltimore Bullets – now the Washington Wizards – and located near the Inner Harbor near Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, where Major League Baseball’s Orioles and the NFL’s Ravens play, respectively.
The first CIAA tournament was played in 1946 in Washington, D.C.
Baltimore hosted the showcase in 1952.
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