CIAA tournament extends Baltimore stay following economic increase

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) extended its men’s and women’s basketball tournament week in Baltimore through 2026, adding an additional year following a successful tournament run in 2023.

The announcement came Thursday morning after Baltimore officials announced the tournament week earned a total economic impact of $29.5 million, an 51% increase from 2022.

“It’s clear that Baltimore wants us,” CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said during a news conference. “It has made the investment inside and out to support the conference.”

The 2023 tournament exceeded 2022’s attendance by 5.6 percent, officials said. During the five-day event in Baltimore, approximately 38,450 fans were in attendance at CFG Bank Arena over 22 basketball games.

Why it matters: The basketball tournament moved to Baltimore in 2021 after a 15-year run in Charlotte. The Queen City could look to bring the tournament back but will have to wait an additional year.

Nearly 14,000 travelers visited the city during the tournament, an increase of 105% from 2022, according to Visit Baltimore President and CEO Al Hutchinson.

Other notable economic impact highlights include:

  • supported 1,504 part-time and full-time jobs 
  • $2.5 million in tax revenue, up 32%
  • $1.2 million minority spending among 118 minority-owned businesses
  • $17.7 million in participant and spectator off-site spending, which includes lodging, food, attractions and retail spending

Hutchinson and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott expressed their appreciation for the extension, both saying the decision was “music to our ears.”

“We know that the CIAA and Baltimore go together like Ole Bay and crab,” Scott said.  “I can only imagine what we are going to do these next few years.” 

“We want to keep them as long as we can,” Hutchinson said.

McWilliams said she wants to increase game attendance which often struggles against CIAA events outside of the tournament.

She aims to sell out the CFG Bank Arena, a venue with a capacity of 14,000.

To do so, the CIAA tournament planning team aims to emphasize ticket sales marketing, including individual day sales and package deals. 

Visit Baltimore also plans to work with the private sector to purchase tickets for local kids to attend games free of charge, Hutchinson said.

“We want fans in the local community,” McWilliams said. “We want kids and families to come to the games,”

McWilliams said the arena should provide a better fan experience in the years to come after playing through renovations during this year’s tournament.

The arena is expected to be complete in time for next year’s tournament and will have more suites and entertainment space.

Providing memorable experience 

McWilliams said she enjoyed watching each game in the tournament, the first time she’s been able to since its arrival in Baltimore.

Bowie State University was the host university during the tournament. University President Aminta Breaux said she enjoyed seeing students interact with alums at networking events during the tournament week, most notably the Women’s Empowerment Luncheon.

“Each day was better than the last,” she said.

McWilliams said the board will evaluate each event from this past year’s tournament to decide if changes need to be made in order to enhance the overall experience.

There are also plans to expand E-Sports spaces for students interested in gaming.

The 2024 CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament will return to Baltimore from Feb. 26 – March 3.

Details regarding next year’s tournament will be finalized by August, McWilliams said.

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