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CIAA 're-evaluates' whether to host annual basketball tournament in Charlotte

Johnson C. Smith fans cheer on the women's team as they play Bowie State during their CIAA tournament game at Bojangles' Coliseum on in February 2017. The CIAA said Monday it is opening up the bidding process to find a city to host its marquee tournament in 2021. Charlotte has hosted the annual tourney since 2006.
Johnson C. Smith fans cheer on the women's team as they play Bowie State during their CIAA tournament game at Bojangles' Coliseum on in February 2017. The CIAA said Monday it is opening up the bidding process to find a city to host its marquee tournament in 2021. Charlotte has hosted the annual tourney since 2006. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

The CIAA is re-evaluating whether it wants to host its college basketball tournaments in Charlotte. A relocation would mean Charlotte loses its most lucrative annual event.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the country’s oldest African-American sports conference, said on Monday that it is opening up the bidding process to find the next host city of its annual marquee men's and women's basketball tournaments for 2021.

The tournament's contract with Charlotte runs through 2020. Charlotte has hosted the tournament since 2006, and the CIAA relocated its headquarters to Charlotte from Hampton, Va., in 2014. The CIAA has "no plans to relocate" its headquarters from Charlotte, however, CIAA spokeswoman Bri Funte said in an email.

CIAA Board Chair and Fayetteville State University President James Anderson said the city of Charlotte has been "a great host" for the tournament.

"The Board believes it makes good business sense to re-evaluate the location and amenities for the future of the tournament," Anderson said in a statement. "Being mindful of the footprint of the CIAA institutions in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and now South Carolina, it's important to review all possible/potential locations to identify what's best for our student-athletes, alumni, and fans."

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Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tom Murray said the CIAA tournament has been the largest annual event in Charlotte for the last 13 years by total economic impact. In 2018, the event had a total economic impact of $50.5 million on the region, according to the CRVA, the city's tourism arm.

But hotel demand and ticket sales for the annual tournament have softened in recent years. This year for the first time, for instance, event organizers blocked off sections of over 7,000 seats at the Spectrum Center uptown for the tournament's championship games.

Despite the weaker demand, CIAA tournaments in Charlotte have tended to be star-studded events filled with concerts and parties, including some with appearances by celebrities like Cardi B, Lil Wayne, Ludacris and Odell Beckham Jr.

The CRVA has not said yet whether Charlotte will submit a bid to keep the tournament.

“We have a very strong relationship with the CIAA and certainly respect their decision to evaluate other cities through a bid process. As with other significant conventions and events, once the CIAA issues a formal request for proposals, we will work with the city and other partners to assess the potential of submitting a bid for Charlotte to keep the tournament here," Murray said.

The CIAA said it is asking bid cities to submit a declaration of their intent to bid, as well as a draft budget, hotel rates and confirmation of adherence to the CIAA's bid specifications by Sept. 9. The CRVA will be evaluating a range of criteria from bidding cities, including venues, lodging and transportation.

Also weighing on the CIAA's decision will be "the region's overall commitment to the annual event, including a provision for scholarship dollars to be distributed to member institutions." Charlotte has given more than $13.7 million in scholarship dollars divided among the 12 conference schools, according to the CRVA.

The CIAA will announce the new host city in December.



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