A Negotiated Settlement: Win-Win for the CIAA and Charlotte-Mecklenburg

There is no place like home.  Hence, every now and then, despite all the national and international news that dominates the airways, occasionally, I am compelled to write about something with a local flavor.

For months leading up to last week’s famed CIAA Tournament, scuttlebutt ran rampant that the Conference was disillusioned with the City, and was on the verge of kicking the Queen City to the curb.  Rumors of Atlanta, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Washington, DC, and even New York City made the rounds.

The CIAA, formally known as the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, is the nation’s oldest African-American athletic conference, established in 1912 on the campus of Hampton University.  The conference currently includes twelve teams, six each in the Northern and Southern Divisions.  Johnson C. Smith University, located in Charlotte, is the official host team, as long as the Tournament remains in Charlotte.

The Tournament moved to Charlotte in 2006 and ended a nine-year run last week.  Ms. Jacqui Carpenter, Commissioner of the League, indicated the Conference would seek/accept bids from interested cities for Tournaments beginning in 2015.  The move fueled a wildfire of speculation.

Alas, on the day after the Tourney concluded, Commissioner Carpenter and Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon announced the Conference and the City brokered a negotiated settlement, and reached an agreement that would bring the venerable Tournament to Charlotte for six more years (through 2020).  Moreover, the CIAA announced it would relocate its headquarters from Hampton, VA to Charlotte.  Mayor Cannon alluded to the sequence of events as a “buzzer-beater victory” for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

A good friend of mine, who is a local attorney and former elected official, wrote a compelling case for our local governments supporting acting to retain the CIAA Tournament as an annual event in our community.  Without recounting his entire opinion, I will cover the major points below:

• The City & County jointly invested $400,000 to fund CIAA scholarships in 2013

• CIAA fans spent $47 million on hotel rooms, restaurant meals, game tickets, and related parties during the 4-5 days of the Tournament (Largest Annual Tourism event in the City)

• Mecklenburg County collected $2.5 million in sales tax revenue for that period (which does not include non-sales tax revenue collected by restaurants, hotels, night club owners, transportations services, private caters, radio stations, private police and security services, retail outlets and other vendors and service providers

• The $400,000 annual City-County investment yields a return many times over in sales tax revenue; more than 6 times the amount invested

• In addition, the event generated approximately $950,000 in State sales tax revenue.

My friend brought his case to the public square, in response to criticism of the City and County for allocating public funds to the CIAA.  He even noted that some have argued that supporting the Tournament negatively affects public education.

He went on to say such an argument fails to take into account the robust return on “our” public investment.  He concludes, the reality is, our local community is fortunate that the CIAA, ACC (Football & Basketball), NCAA, AAU, and a host of other tournaments, conferences, and conventions are insightful, and perceptive enough to select our community to host their events.

Suffice it to say, I fully support his assessment, and agree wholeheartedly with his conclusion.  In the grand scheme of things, it was “A Negotiated Settlement: Win-Win for the CIAA and Charlotte-Mecklenburg!”

I’m done; holla back!

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