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CAA, Royal Farms Arena likely to discuss future of tournament soon

Both the Colonial Athletic Association and Royal Farms Arena management walked away from the conference's men's basketball tournament with warm feelings, but neither side left with a commitment that the tournament will return beyond 2016.

Arena general manager Frank Remesch called the event's operation "absolutely perfect," a rare compliment in his field. CAA commissioner Tom Yeager said the tournament was much easier than last year's initial attempt.

But while Yeager sees "real foundational elements in place here that would sustain a long-term relationship," Remesch said any future agreement beyond the current contract has to "make sense financially for everyone."

This year's tournament drew a four-day attendance of 18,754, including 5,721 at Monday night's final, where Northeastern defeated William & Mary, 72-61. The 2014 tournament drew 19,065, with 5,414 attending the championship game between Delaware and William & Mary.

"We love to have events, but it's got to make sense financially for everyone," Remesch said.

"It's a big building. … I like the event, I like seeing basketball, but we just have to put more people in seats is what it comes down to. When you have more people in seats, everybody makes more money. That's it in a nutshell."

The initial three-year agreement that brought the CAA tourney to Baltimore runs through next year event. Yeager said he'd like to know by the league's annual meeting in June whether the contract will be extended beyond 2016. The CAA, arena management, and Visit Baltimore, the city's marketing arm, will regroup in the next few weeks to discuss the future.

Remesch said he'll factor in the tournament's impact on the area, though "weekends in March are absolutely prime real estate" at the downtown arena.

Early tournament losses for Towson, Drexel, and Delaware knocked out the closest schools geographically before the semifinals and eliminated fan bases that could have easily traveled back for late-round games. William & Mary supporters almost single-handedly accounted for the difference and nearly helped the tournament reach last year's attendance.

Yeager said the tournament made growth in public sales and group sales and still has work to do engaging the Baltimore community, and he insisted any issues engaging the city's population fall on the league.

He likened hosting city officials over the weekend to the early moments of a courtship — he knew how he felt about them, and was wondering what they thought about him. What comes of it will likely determine whether the tournament finds a long-term home in Baltimore.

"We just need to sit down and ask each other for a date," Yeager said.

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