CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The head of the CIAA said she wants the basketball tournament to stay in Charlotte but would like to see more hotel space uptown for participating team members, families and sponsors.
CIAA Commissioner Jacqie Carpenter said Saturday she wanted to clarify prior media reports that indicated she wanted to move the tournament to another city with better hotel accommodations.
“That’s not true,” Carpenter told the Observer. “There are plenty of hotel rooms here. There’s enough properties that we can accommodate the people we want to.”
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority secured 46,000 rooms across the area for CIAA members and sponsors over the course of the week. For perspective, the Democratic National Convention used 61,000 hotel room nights last year.
The problem during last week’s tournament was there weren’t enough rooms reserved in the center city for the CIAA, Carpenter said.
Neither CIAA nor city and hotel officials could provide the number of uptown hotel rooms blocked off for participants and sponsors of the tournament, which is held at the Time Warner Cable Arena.
There are about 4,000 hotel rooms in the center city area, according to Sid Smith, executive director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association.
“We would be most amenable to sitting down and working with the commissioner and the CIAA tournament to optimize the room block,” Smith said.
Hotel and city officials are looking for ways to keep the CIAA sweet on Charlotte.
The city’s eight-year contract with the tournament is up next year. Other cities this spring will get to bid for the chance to play host.
The CIAA’s attractiveness to the Queen City is apparent: Some 200,000 people came to Charlotte for the tournament and associated parties this past week. Officials estimate it generates about $50 million in revenue for the city, filling up hotel rooms at a time of year that is usually slow for the industry.
But Charlotte – and its $1 million guarantee for the tournament – is also important to the CIAA, which is struggling to make up a $200,000 deficit this year after a decline in ticket sales, loss of sponsorship and unexpected legal fees.
According to the organization’s most recent federal tax return, for 2011, the basketball tournament generated $2.7 million in revenue for the CIAA. The organization’s total revenue that year was $5.7 million.
After what she called a great tournament week and with the bidding process soon to start, Carpenter said she’s interested in hearing a proposal from Charlotte leaders.
In addition to more hotel space uptown, she’d like to see room rates come down for fans who must sometimes decide between paying for a hotel and buying a ticket to a game – especially since ticket sales are one of the main ways the CIAA makes money.
Although willing to negotiate, Smith said that might be hard because rates have increased along with occupancy rates as the industry has rebounded since the recession.
Laura Hill, a spokeswoman for the CRVA, said the city was eager to bid on keeping the tournament in Charlotte.
“That’s a partnership,” Carpenter said. “We’ll get there.”