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Charlotte passed over for NCAA events, but it’s not all bad news

AP

Charlotte sports leaders on Tuesday expressed disappointment that the NCAA passed on their bids to hold basketball tournament games from 2020-2022, but were pleased other North Carolina cities landed games after the repeal of House Bill 2.

Another encouraging piece of news: Charlotte will still host the first and second rounds of the men’s basketball tournament at the Spectrum Center March 16-18, 2018. That’s a decision that came earlier this month when the NCAA said championships already awarded for the 2017-2018 season would remain in the state following HB2’s repeal.

The NCAA, along with other sports organizations, corporations and performers, pulled games from the state last spring after passage of the controversial law, which limited protections for LGBT individuals. But sports organizations are now reversing course after HB2 was taken off the books, even though some advocacy groups have said the repeal leaves discriminatory practices in place.

Charlotte’s sports leaders are “disappointed we won’t have the opportunity to host any championship games in this upcoming site selection cycle for NCAA,” but are excited for next year, said Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitor’s Authority.

“We’ll look forward to our next opportunity to advance our valuable relationship with NCAA as we bid on future championships with our partner UNC Charlotte beginning in 2023,” he added.

UNC Charlotte, which submitted Charlotte’s bid to the NCAA, is the host school for the men’s tournament here next year.

Athletic Director Judy Rose said the school appreciates the efforts put forth by lawmakers “to create a bipartisan compromise so that NCAA events could return to North Carolina.”

“We look forward to working with our partners in the CRVA, at the arena and with the Charlotte Hornets to again showcase Charlotte as the welcoming hospitable city that it has always been,” Rose said.

In addition to holding its own games at the Spectrum Center, the Charlotte Hornets are responsible for filling seats for other events during the year.

“We feel like Charlotte and the Spectrum Center are great places to host events like NCAA tournaments, and we look forward to hosting a very successful tournament next year,” Fred Whitfield, the team’s president, told the Observer.

Whitfield added that the team is optimistic about its business at the Spectrum Center following the NCAA’s decision.

The Hornets have said that the backlash from HB2, including the cancellations by bands like Maroon 5, has made filling seats at the arena during non-basketball events more difficult.

“Our hope is that we can start to look forward to our entertainment business picking up again and Spectrum Center becoming premium entertainment venue in the Carolinas,” Whitfield said.

The NBA, which moved its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte over HB2, is expected to make a decision by the end of this month about whether to host its 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte, now that HB2 is off the books.

Whitfield said that the team has been working closely with the league to make sure the game comes back – from blocking off sufficient hotel rooms to determining a non-discrimination policy agreed upon by all parties involved in hosting in Charlotte.

Of the 133 bids North Carolina submitted, the NCAA awarded the state 26 events that include 35 different championships.

The Raleigh News & Observer contributed.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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