CIAA Tournament Continues to Thrive in the Queen City | Charlotte NC Travel & Tourism
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CIAA Tournament Continues to Thrive in the Queen City


Loyal fans pace economic impact increase during tough financial times

Even in the midst of tough economic times, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) delivered another successful Tournament for the member schools, its fans and sponsors, and the city of Charlotte this past February. This year’s 64th edition of the Tournament defied sports and entertainment industry attendance and spending trends as loyal fans continued to support the HBCU conference.

According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA), the 2009 CIAA Tournament accounted for direct spending of $25.5 million and a total economic impact of $38.2* million over the five-day Tournament period. While the actual number of CIAA visitors was about the same as last year, median spending per person increased from $695 in 2008 to $760 in 2009, creating the increase in overall economic impact.

“These results are remarkable and show the great strength of the CIAA fan base and the strong partnership the fans and Charlotte have developed to have such excellent results amid trying economic times,” stated Tim Newman, CEO of the CRVA.

In a year where sporting event attendance is down across the board, and where other NCAA conference tournaments experienced double-digit decreases in attendance, the CIAA was able to maintain the momentum through its loyal fan base that view the Tournament week as an absolute must-attend annual event.

“As I’ve said before, the CIAA fans are the best in the world and they continue to amaze me with their support for this conference,” said CIAA Commissioner Leon Kerry. “We work very hard to make sure the Tournament and affiliated activities offer something for everyone and we are constantly updating the ‘CIAA Experience’ so that fans will attend year-after-year.”

The Tournament also proved successful from a corporate standpoint, as sponsor support and activation programs remained as active as ever.

“We’re pleased to continue our sponsorship and support of the CIAA schools and Tournament,” said Eric Watson, Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Office of Diversity & Inclusion at Food Lion LLC. “This year, we enhanced our sponsorship by supporting additional events during the tournament. We strongly believe in the CIAA’s effort to work with its partners to provide internships and other educational opportunities for its students and alumni. We believe this is a valuable investment in the future workforce of America and the communities we serve.”

Industry consultant IEG recently recognized the conference as a model that “has long conducted an exemplary sponsorship and servicing program and continues to offer successful strategies and tactics that other properties can follow.” Through such programs, and by “thinking like a sponsor,” the CIAA was able to maintain all sponsor relationships and actually welcomed several new sponsors for the 2009 Tournament.

Overall attendance for official CIAA functions remained essentially flat from 2008 numbers at around 180,000** as the multitude of options continued to spread fans throughout the area. The Tournament is also unique in its ability to bring in fans that just want to be “part of the scene” – much like the Superbowl or NBA All-Star Weekend.

The CIAA Ford Fan Experience remained a popular attraction with CIAA patrons drawing more than 32,000 fans over the three-day period. Highlights of the Fan Experience included the Rock the Rim Vendor Street, Steve Harvey Morning Show, the Mo’Nique Show, a concert series featuring national recording artists Robin Thicke, Anthony Hamilton and gospel recording artist Yolanda Adams, Taste of Food Lion Super Stage featuring B. Smith and G. Garvin, Funkmaster Flex Ford car display, and many more interactive activities for people of all ages.

The official CIAA Tournament Web site (, which serves as a central hub to connect CIAA alumni and Tournament attendees, drew 141,818 unique visitors in 2009; a 37 percent increase from 103,532 in 2008.

* Economic Impact was derived using the City of Charlotte’s Tourism Impact Model (created by Elliott D. Pollack & Co.) and is a function of the number of visitors and their spending habits over the course of Tournament week. A complete methodology and explanation are attached in Addendum A.

** Attendance figures include all official CIAA functions – men’s and women’s basketball games, Ford Fan Experience, McDonald’s Super Saturday, High School Day, Career Expo, Women’s Celebration of Soul Concert, Post Tournament Party, McDonald’s Step Show & Step Show After Party, the Women’s Health & Wellness Symposium, and the Women’s Luncheon.

For more information about the CIAA conference or the 2010 Tournament in Charlotte, please visit or

Derek Ross