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CIAA Tournament Draws Record Crowd to Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. The gridlocked streets, jammed sidewalks and packed bars and restaurants told the story last month. Now the numbers are out to prove it: More people than ever attended the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament.

In figures released to The Associated Press on Monday, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority estimates attendance for official CIAA functions topped 190,000 and provided an economic impact of $44.3 million, a 19 percent increase from last year. Both numbers are records for the tournament, which has been held in Charlotte since 2006.

The signature event of the NCAA Division II league of 13 mostly historically Black colleges and universities has become a giant reunion of sorts, with numerous activities not related to basketball. The 24 men’s and women’s games over six days were accompanied by concerts, celebrity-hosted parties, fashion shows and what’s been billed as the largest fan experience outside of the NCAA Final Four.

More fans than ever attended the games at Time Warner Cable Arena, or at least bought tickets. The CIAA said its ticket revenue rose to $2 million, a 5 percent increase from 2010. Much of that money is turned into scholarships for member schools.

“This is a great time for the CIAA,” says league Commissioner Leon Kerry. “Not only have we reached the goals we set for this year’s tournament, but we’ve continued to raise the bar to provide our alumni and fans with a new and exciting experience each and every year.”

The Toyota-sponsored fan experience at the Charlotte Convention Center drew 33,000 people over three days, which included concerts and celebrity appearances. Another event sponsored by McDonald’s that included musical performances and a beauty pageant drew 15,000.

Next year’s tournament, which coincides with the league’s 100th anniversary, will be Feb. 27-March 3. The CIAA has a deal to hold the event in Charlotte through at least 2014, with Kerry saying he’s not opposed to making the city the permanent host.

“Year after year we have seen the validation of Charlotte as a destination for the CIAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament and the reunion of its alumni, friends and family,” says Tim Newman, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “Charlotte has embraced the CIAA, its history and its importance in the lives of those who attend.”

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