CIAA fans polled outside the Charlotte Convention Center on Friday were unanimous: Charlotte is the perfect city for the basketball tournament, and they want it to stay.
“If it wasn’t in Charlotte, I wouldn’t go,” said Virginia State fan Nicole Harris, 24, of Chesterfield, Va. “I wouldn’t drive all the way to Atlanta.”
“It’s a tradition now,” said Miss Black Piedmont Tiffany Benedict, 26, of High Point. “Everybody knows the CIAA is here.”
The tournament is free to leave Charlotte for another venue after this year, and the CIAA last year rebuffed the city’s request to exclusively negotiate a contract extension.
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The association has said it will issue a formal request that all interested cities submit proposals, although it hasn’t done so yet. At stake is one of Charlotte’s biggest tourism events, estimated to create more than $40 million in economic impact.
If fans who were polled by the Observer on South College Street had their say, the tournament would be in Charlotte permanently. They said Charlotte is not only right geographically, it’s easy to walk to events, restaurants and night life once you’re here.
“Raleigh was too spread out, and there wasn’t enough to do,” Steven Easley, 35, here from Cincinnati with his photography business, said of the former CIAA tournament location.
Charlotte’s police presence also makes you feel safer, colleague Ven Sherrod, 38, of Chicago said. He also likes the offerings at the EpiCentre.
Tonya Dawson of Cincinnati just turned 33 and attends the tournament each year as a birthday gift to herself. “You can walk from your hotel to each location and event,” she said. “I feel it’s safer. This is where the CIAA should be.”
“Charlotte and the CIAA are synonymous,” said Christina Griffin, 32, of Cincinnati. Plus, she said, “the downtown is so clean.”