Heavy traffic expected as Billy Graham funeral, CIAA in Charlotte the same week

Graham funeral happening during busy CIAA week
Updated: Feb. 22, 2018 at 6:54 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Two big events are coming to Charlotte next week that could cause congested roads and create a bigger police presence.

The popular Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Basketball tournament will be in progress while the funeral services for the Rev. Billy Graham are being held.

Thousands of fans are expected to come to Charlotte for the tournament and thousands could come to pay their final respects to Graham.

"There will be some road closures," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Deputy Police Chief Johnny Jennings said. "There's going to be some disruptions of traffic. We are asking the public - anybody coming to pay respects - to just be patient."

Police are anticipating foreign dignitaries, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as former US presidents to be on hand for the funeral. They could be on the roads the same time as CIAA fans are heading to games and events.

CMPD usually has about 1,700 officers on hand for CIAA week, but they believe more manpower will be needed because of the added hundreds of invited guests coming to Graham's funeral.

"We have made some adjustments to our days off," Jennings said. "Also, the availability of overtime and officers to come in when they were set a day off - we will be able to bring them in and help out with some of the staffing."

Police also say they have State Highway Patrol and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office to serve as backup if needed.

"Looking forward to the challenge," Jennings said. "And want to welcome everybody in. Hopefully, we can pull it off."

Local hotels and restaurants are bracing for unexpected guests. They believe Charlotte will be a busy place as people reunite with their CIAA college friends to see basketball while thousands honor America's Pastor.

"We are anticipating to be extremely busy," Merts Heart and Soul General Manager Tia Brazzelle said. "We are already really busy, but extremely because of Billy Graham."

Mayor Vi Lyles thinks these two big events happening at the same time will allow CIAA fans the opportunity to honor Billy Graham.

"Many of those people are people of faith that also may want to be part of this," Lyles said.

Graham's funeral will be on Friday.

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