The Colonial Athletic Association announced Thursday afternoon that the conference's men's basketball tournament would move from Baltimore to Charleston, S.C., after this year's championship is completed at Royal Farms Arena from March 4-7.
The league had signed a three-year contract to run the tournament in Baltimore beginning in 2014, but had opened the bidding process for the tournament in 2017 and beyond to other cities. The conference's athletic directors agreed to accept Charleston's bid, which will run through 2019.
CAA commissioner Tom Yeager said the decision to move the tournament from Baltimore to Charleston was not a reflection on Baltimore's bid.
"The proposal itself was very fair," Yeager said from the league's offices in Richmond. "I don't begrudge that at all. I think by the same token, there were others that were interested in pulling some stuff together that also made it very attractive. This wasn't anything about what Maryland did or didn't do. Everything was very fair."
Yeager said the addition of the College of Charleston in 2013 and Elon in 2014 swayed the league to consider moving the tournament south.
"Most conferences kind of rotate their tournaments to different portions of their conference," he said. "Sometimes it's good to help rejuvenate interest in different spots. I think that was one of the big motivators here. We have some new schools in the Carolinas that came on board after the decision to run it in Baltimore."
Terry Hasseltine, executive director of Maryland Sports and vice president of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he wasn't surprised by the conference's decision to move.
"I knew they received some significant interest from other destinations," Hasseltine said. "I am, however, disappointed to see them leave Baltimore after this year's tournament. It is great having postseason NCAA basketball in our market with the CAA men's basketball tournament. There is something to be said about being a site that puts someone into the 'Big Dance.' That said, the CAA needed to make a decision that is in the best interest of their membership and at this time they felt Charleston provided that opportunity."
Last year's tournament drew a four-day attendance of 18,754, including 5,721 at the championship final between Northeastern and William & Mary. The 2014 tournament drew 19,065, with 5,414 attending the title game between Delaware and William & Mary.
By comparison, a 2013 preseason match-up between the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks drew a sellout crowd of 12,376. An exhibition game the following year between the Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans drew just 5,159.
"The loss of the CAA Men's Basketball Tournament in 2017 and beyond hurts," Hasseltine acknowledged. "However, the arena will find solid business to fill the dates now vacant by this decision. We will continue to pursue other basketball-related events that fit Baltimore's savvy basketball fan base."
Frank Remesch, Royal Farms Arena general manager, did not seem concerned about filling the dates vacated by the departure of the CAA tournament.
"We are the No. 1 Arena in North America, and March is our heaviest month for booking," he said via email. "We are confident that we'll be able to fill those dates. With that said, Tom Yeager and his team were terrific to work with. We wish them nothing but success in Charleston."
Yeager said he is confident the CAA would consider returning the tournament to Baltimore sometime in the future.
"It was a terrific venue for us, our fans loved the city, and I couldn't speak more highly of everybody in the hospitality industry," he said.