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CIAA tournament will not return to Charlotte after 2020, source says

Charlotte’s most lucrative annual event will not be returning after 2020.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the country’s oldest African-American sports conference, will host its annual marquee men’s and women’s basketball tournaments instead in Baltimore, according to an Observer source who could not be named because the news had not yet been made public.

Charlotte submitted its bid to host the annual tournament in early September, about two months after the CIAA said it was reevaluating its relationship with the city.

The Baltimore Sun, citing a source familiar with the event, said in a story Monday evening that Baltimore beat out Norfolk, Va., and Charlotte to host the event. According to the Sun story, “Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford’s public schedule lists the ‘Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) bid announcement’ for Tuesday morning.”

In Charlotte, the tournament had a total economic impact of $50.5 million in 2018, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. That figure includes $28.8 million in direct spending.

But hotel demand and ticket sales for the annual tournament have softened over time. For the first time last year, event organizers blocked off sections of over 7,000 seats at the Spectrum Center for the tournament’s championship games.

Still, the tournament weekend has remained a star-studded one that’s filled with parties featuring famous hip-hop artists and celebrity athletes, from Migos to Odell Beckham Jr. to Cardi B.

In 2017, the CIAA basketball tournament was one of Charlotte’s few remaining major sporting events that opted not to relocate from North Carolina over opposition to House Bill 2, the now-repealed law that limited legal protections for LGBTQ individuals. The conference did, however, move eight out of its 10 sports championships from North Carolina because of HB2, much like the NCAA and ACC had done with their events days before.

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Charlotte began hosting the annual basketball tournament in 2006.

When it announced it would renew its contract with Charlotte for six more years in 2014, the CIAA also said it would relocate its headquarters here from Hampton, Va. The conference has said it will keep its headquarters in Charlotte regardless of its decision on its basketball tournament host site.

James Mitchell, at-large Charlotte city council member, in September told the Observer that losing the CIAA tournament “will tarnish our brand a little bit.” Charlotte, Mitchell said, makes sense for the tournament because it has an NBA arena, the Spectrum Center, that’s walkable to hotels, restaurants and bars uptown.

Furthermore, nine of the CIAA’s 13 member schools are in North Carolina. Other member schools are in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.
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