All the conjecture about where the CIAA basketball tournaments might be headed ended Monday.
CIAA officials announced an unprecedented partnership with the city of Charlotte — the conference basketball tournaments will stay there for at least the next six years, and the conference headquarters will move there from Hampton, Va.
“On the heels of such a tremendous tournament, this news couldn't have come at a better time,” Mayor Patrick Cannon of Charlotte said in a statement. “I still remember helping to recruit this event to the Queen City more than a decade ago as Mayor Pro Tem, so being able to keep it here for six more years is a testament to the depth of our relationship with the CIAA. This economic generator … will pay dividends for years to come.”
The women’s and men’s tournaments have been in Charlotte for the last nine years, and with the contract ending after last week’s tournaments, there was speculation about a move.
Commissioner Jacqie Carpenter said last week that as many as 10 cities showed interest and that Atlanta, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Greensboro, Raleigh and Washington, D.C., indicated they would submit bids. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority says that the tournaments create more than $40 million in economic impact.
Total attendance figures for the tournaments were not available from the CIAA, but Friday night’s semifinals drew about 8,000 to Time Warner Cable Arena, and Saturday night’s final drew about 12,000. The arena seats about 19,000.
Next year’s men’s tournament will be the CIAA’s 70th.
“We look forward to forging an even more enhanced, collaborative and positive partnership with the City of Charlotte,” Carpenter said in a statement. “It's been a home that has truly embraced the tournament, and we look forward to growing the momentum we've experienced in these last nine years….”
The new six-year contract will give the tournament its longest run in one city. Greensboro had the tournament for 12 years, from 1964 through 1975.
As part of the agreement, the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority will provide $1.4 million in funding each year, with proceeds going to the 12 CIAA schools.
Carpenter, when reached by phone, said she’s looking forward to the possibilities the partnership has to offer.
“Part of the agreement does have us moving there to be a part of the community, and it will allow us to work more closely with Time Warner Cable Arena in building the tournament as we move forward,” Carpenter said.
Since the tournament moved to Charlotte there have been complaints of price-gouging by hotels, especially near the arena.
Carpenter said: “That’s part of the package with the CRV and the city, and the hope is to get better control of the properties, especially there in the uptown area.”
Coach Bobby Collins of Winston-Salem State said he agrees with the move.
“I love that it will be staying there because Charlotte has been good to us,” Collins said. “I think Charlotte has really embraced the tournament and the activities that surround the basketball definitely give it a great atmosphere.”
Another benefit of the CIAA’s move is that it will give the conference more sponsorship possibilities with the basketball tournaments and other sports. And Carpenter said it’s possible other CIAA championships could be played in Charlotte.
But she said she also wants to be fair to the schools in the Northern Division.
“We will be having a lot of our meetings there now in Charlotte, and we can also explore hosting other championships, but we still want our northern schools to get a chance to host the other championships,” Carpenter said.