By Amanda Yeager | Baltimore Business Journal

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament will remain in Baltimore through at least 2025, extending the city’s host duties for another two years.

Tournament organizers joined with city and state officials on June 1 to announce the extension of an initial three-year hosting contract between Baltimore and the CIAA, the country’s oldest historically Black athletic conference. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of games last year. The 2022 event, meanwhile, was held in-person with pandemic safety precautions, including mandatory masking at the Baltimore Arena.

This year’s tournament, which ran Feb. 22-26, “exceeded many of our expectations in still a COVID year, where we were really just focused on the safety of those who planned to attend,” CIAA commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said. “Student-athletes and fans, alumni, promoters, event people — you name it — owners, businesses, they showed up. We’re looking forward to 2023 and the impact it will have on the Baltimore community.”

Officials did not share details about the financial terms of the two-year extension. McWilliams said the specifics of the agreement are still being finalized. The original three-year deal totaled about $4 million, $1.5 million of which was paid for by the city and $1 million of which was funded by the state. The private sector filled in the remaining funds.

News of the deal follows the release of a Tourism Economics report showing this year’s tournament drew some 36,400 people to Baltimore and generated an economic impact of $19.6 million.

The numbers did not measure up to initial hopes for the tournament when Baltimore was announced as a host city in 2019. At the time, organizers predicted the games could lure as many 150,000 spectators and match the average economic impact of $50 million the tournament had in its prior host city of Charlotte, N.C.

Despite the numbers, Visit Baltimore CEO Al Hutchinson, McWilliams and others said they were proud of the turnout in a pandemic year.

Hutchinson said that for every dollar spent in and around the tournament, it generated $3.73 in economic impact. The tournament exceeded the $15 million economic impact of the CIAA’s first year in Charlotte, in 2006.

“Both the commissioner and I really didn’t know what the return would be,” he said. “We’re dealing with an unprecedented time in a pandemic, we had some folks who were on the fence about attending the tournament due to health reasons. … So this was a really, really tough one, but I will say to you it was a success story.”

Keeping the event in Baltimore for another two years will help the tournament build on its goal of reaching alumni in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast who didn’t want to travel to Charlotte in the past, CIAA officials said.

Both CIAA and city officials said they also hoped to broaden the tournament’s effect on local business in years to come. In 2022, more than $1 million went to ensuring Black-owned businesses “had a seat at the table” as a result of the tournament, Hutchinson said.

“That’s a part of our footprint moving forward, we believe we can grow that,” he said.

Next year’s tournament is scheduled for Feb. 20-26, 2023. An 11-month overhaul of the Baltimore Arena by the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group broke ground in March and is slated to be complete in time for the CIAA’s return to Baltimore, Mayor Brandon Scott said.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Oak View Group

Issue 275: June/July 2022


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