The final day of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association men’s and women’s basketball tournaments on Feb. 26 drew a total attendance of 13,207 to Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, conference and city tourism officials announced Monday morning.
Those fans first watched No. 1 seed Lincoln defeat No. 2 seed Elizabeth City State, 67-52, for that school’s first women’s crown and then No. 1 seed Fayetteville State outlast No. 2 seed Virginia Union, 65-62, for its second men’s title.
Their victories capped the tournaments’ five-day run in Baltimore — its first appearance here since 1952. The conference of 12 men’s and women’s basketball programs from mostly historically Black colleges and universities had moved north from Charlotte, North Carolina, where the tournament had been for 15 years.
That number exceeded the tournaments’ attendance for the championship games in Charlotte by almost 4,000, according to the officials. Last month’s tournaments were the first ones hosted by Baltimore after the 2021 postseasons were canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am so proud of what we accomplished in our first live year with Baltimore after going nearly two years between crowning champions! Our teams worked overtime to manage the unknowns in a new city and in the midst of unprecedented times with the ongoing pandemic,” CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said in a written statement. “We focused on the people from start to finish, which made this event special. The positive feedback received has been overwhelming. Baltimore’s welcoming spirit and focus on basketball confirmed why they are called the ‘Charm City!’”
The tournaments’ first run in Baltimore boasted an attendance of about 66,000 over 22 basketball games from Feb. 22 to 26. That total was 1,600 behind the announced attendance for the tournaments in 2020, also in Charlotte.
“Through the CIAA Tournament, it was an honor to showcase all that makes Baltimore great — specifically our Black history, culture and excellence,” Visit Baltimore President and Executive Director Al Hutchinson said. “We are grateful for Mayor Brandon Scott and the city for their support in helping to make the tournament a resounding success. In terms of economic impact, we are waiting on the full economic impact report, but we have received feedback from a number of hotels, restaurants and ride-share companies saying that this year outperformed a typical February. As the tournament grows in Baltimore year over year, so will its economic impact on our city’s businesses.”
Besides the basketball games, the conference coordinated a virtual High School Education Day, a career expo and a variety of panels and symposiums. CIAA and city officials also announced that the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland and Visit Baltimore raised $800,000 for the conference’s General Scholarship Fund to support the students attending the league’s member schools. The CIAA also donated game tickets to a number of community groups, such as Mentoring Male Teens in the Hood, Baltimore Terps Youth Football & Cheer, Cherry Hill Eagles Foundation Inc. and Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of African American Male Engagement Disconnected Youth Program.
“As mayor of Baltimore, it has been an honor to host the CIAA tournament. The Black excellence of the CIAA and our community here in Baltimore are a match made in heaven,” Mayor Brandon M. Scott said. “One of the most meaningful parts of the CIAA experience in Baltimore was the way our local businesses, city officials, state leadership and community leaders came together to celebrate Black culture and uplift the 12 great CIAA institutions, along with our city’s HBCUs that are providing opportunities and pathways for success to our city’s youth.”