CIAA ready for tournament as it honors student athletes - | WBTV Charlotte

CIAA ready for tournament as it honors student athletes

(Dedrick Russell | WBTV) (Dedrick Russell | WBTV)

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) basketball tournament is ready for tip-off once again in Charlotte. This is the 12th year the popular and profitable tournament has been in the Queen City.

The first CIAA event happened Monday at the Charlotte Convention Center. It was a luncheon honoring the accomplishments of the student athletes from 24 teams.

"I am just thrilled," CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said. "I think when I walk in the room and I see these student athletes, sometimes it gets overwhelming because all the work that we do is surrounded by them."

The awards luncheon will announce the Player of the Year, Rookie of the year and All-CIAA Team.

This year, the CIAA is being played while HB2 is the law of the land. Other sporting events left Charlotte because of the controversial state law. The commissioner said CIAA is committed to staying in Charlotte until at least 2020, but that could change.

"I think there is an opportunity for the board to come together after the tournament to access what they want to do based on laws that we cannot control," McWilliams said. "I think the temperament of what we are seeing will also dictate if we need to stay or go. Now we are feeling included."

Tom Murray, the CEO of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, wants the tournament to stay in Charlotte for years to come.

"Every year we measure the economic impact of the event," Murray said. "And every year it's been growing. Last year it was a $57.4 million dollars of economic activity between hotel rooms, restaurant activity, everything from retail. It has a big impact on our community that's why we are so excited about it being here."

One thing new this year is first-round games will be played at Bojangles' Coliseum. Free shuttles will run every half hour from the Convention Center to the coliseum starting Tuesday morning.

McWilliams said organizers have dotted every "i" and crossed every "t." They say they are ready to have a successful tournament.

"Will there be mistakes? Possibly, but there will be some that are just not in our control and I feel confident," the commissioner said.

The commissioner also said ticket sales are a little down compared to last year at this time, but added they are improving. She hopes sales will continue to increase.

The CIAA Basketball Championship Games will be played at Spectrum Center on Saturday night.

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