CIAA hoops tourney to move to Baltimore

FUTURE CIAA TOURNEY HOME: The CIAA announced this week that its coveted basketball tournament will move to the Royal Farms Arena in downtown Baltimore from 2021 to 2023.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) announced Tuesday a three-year deal that moves its signature men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in 2021 through 2023 to Baltimore.
The momentous move, announced by press release and at a press conference Tuesday at the Reginald F. Lewis African-American Museum in downtown Baltimore, will come at the end of a 15-year tournament stay in Charlotte, N. C. which culminates with tournaments to be held there this year (2019) and next year (2020).
The decision by the league’s Board of Directors – the presidents of the 13 member-institutions – came after poring over bids from Charlotte, Norfolk, Va. and Baltimore.
CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams, CIAA Board Chair Dr. James A Anderson president of Fayetteville State University, Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, Maryland Lt Governor Boyd Rutherford, Dr. Amina Breaux, president of nearby conference member Bowie State University, former CIAA and NBA star Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and a host of other dignitaries and guests were on hand for the announcement hosted by Visit Baltimore President and CEO, Al Hutchinson.
“This is an exciting time for the CIAA as we have an opportunity to bring the basketball tournament to a new market, moving it closer to many of our northern institutions who have travelled to Charlotte for more than a decade,” McWilliams said in the press release.
Hutchinson called the CIAA Tournament, which draws over 100,000 fans to Charlotte and reportedly infuses as much as $55 million into the local economy, “Baltimore’s Super Bowl.”
The move to Baltimore will end a 27-year stay for the Tournament in the state of North Carolina. It was held for six years each in Winston-Salem (1994-99) and Raleigh (2000-05) before making the move to Charlotte in 2006. Prior to the move to the Tar Heel state, the tournament spent 18 years in the state of Virginia including stops in Hampton (1976-78), Norfolk (1979-85 and 1988-90) and Richmond (1986-87, 1991-93).
The tournament that began in 1946 in Washington, D. C., also had a long run in Greensboro, N. C (1960, 1964-75) and made an earlier stop in Winston-Salem from 1961-63.
It will not be the first time the tournament visits Baltimore. After six years in Washington at two different locations – Turner’s Arena from 1946 to 1948 and Uline Arena from 1949 to 1951 – the 1952 tournament was played in Baltimore at the Edward P. Hurt Gymnasium, a 1,000-seat facility on the campus of then conference member Morgan State named for the famed MSU basketball, football and track coach.
“The teams and cities that presented their bids to the Board of Directors were energetic and impressive,” Anderson noted in the press re-lease. “What stood out about Baltimore was their vision of how the Tournament could be woven into the fabric of the city. Also important was Baltimore’s commitment to provide scholarships for the CIAA institutions and overall support of the hotel and business communities.”
Reports indicate that Baltimore pledged up to $2 million in scholarships. Charlotte’s bid was reportedly in the $1.2 million range.
The games are to be centered at Royal Farms Arena in downtown Baltimore not far from the city’s attractive Inner Harbor. The 57-year old RFA, which seats 11,000 and can be expanded to 14,000, has served as host of a Beatles concert (1964), a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1966), an NBA All-Star Game (1969) and was the home arena to the NBA’s Baltimore Bullets from 1963 to 1973 with former Winston-Salem State standout and first round draft pick Monroe as its top player. In 2008, the arena hosted a rally for presidential candidate Barack Obama.
In Charlotte, the last three days (quarterfinals, semifinals and finals) of the tournament are played at the Spectrum Center, a spacious 19,000-seat arena that is home to the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, with opening round games at the smaller Bojangles Coliseum. In recent years, the tournament has struggled to fill up the lower bowl at the Spectrum Center for its showcase games.
Key community activities featured within the tournament, such as Education Day, the Career Expo and Toyota Fan Fest will continue in Baltimore as well. One of the features that reportedly made Baltimore attractive is that RFA is located about a block away from the Balti-more Convention Center which will likely host the Fan Fest, a two-day event in Charlotte that includes concerts, food and cooking shows, vendors, corporate displays and engagement and draws a plethora of fans to the Charlotte Convention Center only a couple blocks away from the Spectrum Center.
“I can’t begin to say how excited Baltimore is to welcome the CIAA,” said Mayor Pugh at the press conference. “We look forward to welcoming the CIAA, its players and many fans, and to hosting these major tournaments in a way that demonstrates what a truly great city we are, and what a great decision this will be for all.”