CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte is getting ready to host the CIAA tournament for the final time. The tournament kicks off this Tuesday.
The CIAA is the nation’s first African-American athletic conference and for the past 14 years, it’s basketball tournament has been played in the Queen City.
This comes at a time when the conference is celebrating its 75th year.
The CIAA announced last year that it would be moving the tournament to Baltimore starting in 2021. Officials within the conference say Baltimore presented an impressive package for the tournament.
“It’s the last oh we gotta go hard. We’ve got to turn up and make it memorable,” said Ricky King, a Business major at Johnson C. Smith University.
Some city leaders previously stated the conference asked for $1.7 million in scholarship money. Documents for Charlotte’s bid offered $1.5 million. Many fans had also complained the city’s hotel rates were too expensive for the week.
The conference requested a cap at $200 per night, but Charlotte’s bid showed an average slightly higher at $215.
The response from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority when it was first learned the tournament was leaving: “We did this bid together, with the city leaders, and so this was agreed on by all of us. We think we had our best foot forward. It’s emotional to lose this event, it’s important to all of us. We’re sorry to lose it, but we respect the CIAA and their decision.”
The group says it will submit another bid for the tournament after 2023. So there's a chance it could return to the Queen City in the future.
Over the years, bracket play in the CIAA tournament changes as different teams enter or leave the CIAA conference. One thing that’s always stayed the same, is the love of the game.
Ricky King said he’s most excited about the cheer and step shows that happen during the tournament’s fan fest. These competitions help tie in the celebration of the black colleges and its students.
“It’s kind of like a family reunion. That’s how I look at it like, that’s the cousin you never knew about and y’all actually connecting and exchange socials. You get to hang out and you’ve found a new friend,” said King.
Others are ready for red-carpet events.
“Like celebrities and parties,” said Thyon Holmes, a JCSU alumni.
Those who have made it a tradition to celebrate the week when the CIAA comes to town, get one last chance to experience all the fun right here at home before Baltimore becomes the hosting city next year.
Holmes said, “I’m a little sad. I feel like it might take a little attention away from Charlotte, you know”
The hope for some is that Charlotte will be able to snag its hosting title again come 2023 when Baltimore’s bidding rights expire.
“Depending on the sales and everything, or the growth of everything, it might come back because we did big things here in Charlotte,” said Holmes.