CIAA to stay in Charlotte for six more years

The CIAA basketball tournament will remain in Charlotte for six more years, after the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority agreed to increase its payment to the athletic association from $1 million to $1.4 million annually, as well as other increased financial benefits.

The CRVA and city of Charlotte announced Monday they had reached a deal with the CIAA, which concluded its weeklong basketball tournament over the weekend. This was the final year the tournament was contractually bound to the city.

The CIAA had said previously it wanted to issue a formal request for proposals to cities interested in hosting the event. But Charlotte’s more lucrative financial package helped persuade the CIAA to stay.

In addition, the CIAA announced it will relocate its conference headquarters to Charlotte from Hampton, Va.

CRVA Chief Executive Officer Tom Murray said the CIAA is the city’s “largest convention on an annual basis.”

The tourism authority has estimated the CIAA resulted in just under $30 million in direct spending last year. Visitors for the tournament have been estimated to use 40,000 hotel room nights.

Mayor Patrick Cannon said it was a “buzzer-beater victory,” alluding to the city being concerned the CIAA might leave.

Since the CIAA tournament moved from Raleigh to Charlotte in 2006, the CRVA has paid the conference $1 million annually for athletic scholarships. The CRVA has also allowed the CIAA to use the Convention Center without paying rent for a fan festival.

The city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County each paid $200,000 a year to help the CRVA with the $1 million commitment. The two governments pay for the tournament out of general revenues, which can be used for services such as roads and schools.

It’s likely the CRVA will ask the city and county to increase their financial commitment.

Cannon said he thought the City Council would support spending more for the CIAA.

County Commissioner Chairman Trevor Fuller said the county would probably continue paying the $200,000, but wanted to “see more specifics,” before he supports more money.

Murray said he doesn’t know yet how the CRVA will come up with the $1.4 million.

“The community will have to figure that out,” Murray said.

In addition to the $1.4 million and free use of the Convention Center, the CRVA could contribute more money to the CIAA to help it pay for staffing Time Warner Cable Arena.

The CIAA paid the Charlotte Bobcats more than $312,000 to staff Time Warner Cable Arena for the 2012 tournament, according to the CIAA’s tax return for the year that ended in June 2012.

Murray said it’s possible the CRVA could help the CIAA with its arena staffing expenses.

In an interview with the Observer before this year’s tournament started, CIAA Commissioner Jacqie Carpenter said the conference might seek financial help for arena costs, in whatever city it chose to host the 2015 tournament.

Bobcats President Fred Whitfield, who attended Monday’s city news conference, said the team stayed out of negotiations with the CIAA. He said the team wants “to be a good host,” and lobbied the NBA for a two-week deadline extension on submitting dates that its arena can’t be used for the 2014-15 basketball season.

Carpenter said Charlotte’s deal was a “true reset” for the tournament.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s 12 mostly historically black colleges and universities include Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.

The basketball tournament is crucial to the association’s budget, according to its most recent tax return.

The CIAA had total revenues of $5.94 million for that year, which includes all money from the basketball tournament.

But the CIAA’s expenses were $7.65 million for that period. The association ran a $1.7 million operating deficit, burning through all of its cash on hand.

The CIAA used some of its cash reserves to make up the difference but still had a debt of more than $700,000.

It’s unclear when the CIAA will move its headquarters to Charlotte. The conference website lists 15 staff members, including Carpenter.

The CIAA could be eligible for city and county incentives for moving its headquarters.

Cannon said he didn’t think the CIAA would be seeking any incentives.

It’s common for the CRVA to offer sporting events and conventions financial incentives to come to Charlotte.

For instance, the city and the CRVA told the National League of Cities it could contribute up to $1.3 million in cash and other incentives in exchange for the league’s 2017 meeting, which is expected to use 15,000 hotel room nights – 25,000 fewer than the CIAA.

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