CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - People in the community are concerned the city of Charlotte is losing events that attract an African American audience. Queen City Battle of the Bands has decided to pack its bags and leave Charlotte.
The event has been in Charlotte for the past five years. It was a competition for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) bands to show off their moves and music. The event was held at Memorial Stadium but it outgrew the venue.
The organizer of the Battle of the Bands, Derek Webber, wanted to move the event to Bank of America Stadium but that didn’t happen.
“It was just a lot of hurdles that were in place that we couldn’t get over,” Queen City Battle of the Bands Organizer Derek Webber said. “They say the stadium wasn’t available, but our research shows that we’ve conducted - that weekend has been available nine out of the 10 years. It was available this past year. We feel that wasn’t truthful.”
Webber is from Charlotte and claims he tried his best to keep the Queen City Battle of the Bands in place.
“I thought it was important to keep the project here,” Webber said. “I built the project to be in Charlotte so I did feel disappointed about the process - the lack of communication and the lack of effort to make it possible.”
City Councilman James Mitchell says he is bothered the Queen City Battle of the Bands is leaving. He says he worked with city leaders trying to relocate the event to the stadium to keep it in Charlotte, but says the city showed little interest.
“Unfortunately we lost because we moved too slow,” Charlotte City Councilman James Mitchell said.
The Battle of the Bands pumped about $7 million dollars in the local economy last time. It also provided scholarships to the colleges. Mitchell believes this event was good for Charlotte.
“It put us on the map once again,” Mitchell said. “But more importantly it talks about African American events not having a place in the City of Charlotte, and we have to remove that label. You lose the Battle of the Bands and now we are going to lose the CIAA in 2020...If I am looking at the scoreboard we are Oh for Two.”
Mitchell believes the city may have a problem. He tells WBTV the publication Ebony was interested in having a music festival in Charlotte but tourism leaders appeared like they weren’t interested and so the deal fell apart.
“We are not putting our best foot forward when you think about losing Battle of the Bands and losing the CIAA - we are sending a wrong message to our citizens, but we are sending a wrong message to the tourism and to the events,” Mitchell said.
Officials from Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) say it was strictly an issue of availability as to why Queen City Battle of the Bands could not get Bank of America Stadium. They say they aggressively go after African American events constantly.
CRVA reports over the past decade it has generated more than 63,000 room nights specifically geared to African Americans, not including CIAA-related business. CRVA says in the next decade, it already has about 33,000 room nights on the books and more is anticipated.
Black Enterprise Conference is coming to town and the National NAACP Convention is coming to Charlotte in 2021.
Webber wishes the Battle of the Bands will return to Charlotte one day, but currently he is excited that Houston will host the event for the next three years.
“Houston was one of the cities that stepped up to the plate and really showed us what a true partner is. Someone who values HBCU opportunities and scholarships,” Webber said.
The Queen City Battle of the Bands will now be called the Cracker Barrel Battle of the Bands. Cracker Barrel is now the title sponsor.
The event will be held at the NRG Stadium. That’s where the Houston Texans play. Thousands of people are expected to hear about eight bands perform. While CRVA claims there is no issue attracting diverse events, Mitchell believes politicians need to step in.
“How do we make this change to ensure that things will be different in the future when it comes to African American events and so I think we need to have that conversation first of June as soon as we get through with the budget,” Mitchell said.
The Battle of the Bands will be held September 1 in Houston.