CIAA documents show what Charlotte must try to do to keep its biggest annual event

Charlotte has officially submitted its bid to keep the CIAA basketball tournament, the city’s most lucrative annual event that it has hosted for the last 13 years.

Proposals are due to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association on Sunday, the CIAA said earlier this summer. At that time, it opened up the bidding process to find the next host city of its annual marquee men’s and women’s basketball tournaments for 2021-2023. Charlotte is contracted to host the annual tourney through 2020.

“For us, it’s an all hands on deck effort,” to keep the CIAA, said James Mitchell, Charlotte’s at-large city councilman. The proposal involves securing venues, coordinating with tourism officials and making sure hotel rates aren’t too expensive for fans.

The Observer obtained the CIAA’s request for proposals through a public records request.

Among other criteria, the prospective host city must provide a “first-class venue” with the ability to accommodate a block of at least 500 rooms to serve as the CIAA headquarters, scholarship funding for the CIAA’s 13-member institutions totaling $1.5 million per year, a competition venue with at least 10,000 seats, and blocks of hotels for fans that don’t exceed $200 per night, according to the documents.

The CIAA had a total economic impact of over $50.5 million in the Charlotte region this year, up from $47.4 million the year before, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, the city’s tourism arm. Last year, Charlotte raised $1,518,416 in scholarships for the CIAA’s member schools.

CRVA CEO Tom Murray said the city submitted its bid on Friday afternoon.

“We appreciate the support of Mayor (Vi) Lyles and other elected officials, the (Charlotte) Hornets, area hotels and others who helped assemble this submission. We are extremely proud of the strong partnership we’ve established with the CIAA these last 13 years and hope to have the opportunity to continue hosting this event in future years,” Murray said in an email.

James Mitchell, Charlotte’s At-Large City Councilman

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Since Charlotte began hosting the annual basketball tournament in 2006, the CIAA has added four member institutions, including Lincoln University near Philadelphia. Other cities known to be bidding include Baltimore, Norfolk, Va., and Richmond, Va.

It makes sense from a geographical and business perspective that the CIAA would want to gauge what other member schools’ cities could offer when looking toward the future, Mitchell said.

But, Mitchell said, losing the tournament would be a blow to Charlotte. He added that the annual tournament has helped prepare Charlotte for hosting other large-scale events, such as the 2012 Democratic National Convention and the upcoming NBA All-Star Game in February.

“If we lose it, I think it will tarnish our brand a little bit,” Mitchell said. “We’re trying to keep our swagger and show that Charlotte is a destination.”

Besides, Mitchell said, Charlotte has a leg-up on its competition because it has an NBA arena, the Spectrum Center, that’s walkable to hotels, restaurants and bars uptown.

North Carolina also has been a logical fit for the tournament given the CIAA’s history and makeup.

When it announced it would renew its contract with Charlotte for six more years in 2014, the CIAA, the country’s oldest African American sports conference, also said it would relocate its headquarters here from Hampton, Va. (The CIAA has said it has no plans to relocate its headquarters from Charlotte regardless of the outcome of the current bid process.)

Furthermore, nine of the CIAA’s 13 member schools are in North Carolina. The CIAA plans to announce the tournament’s new home in December.