CIAA and `Capital City' Team Up for a Big Score: Raleigh, N.C., Offers Tournament Basketball and Other Attractions for African-Americans

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THE Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association will crown new champions and cement new legends this year in the "Capital City" of Raleigh, N.C., which is hosting its fourth straight CIAA basketball tournament at the RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) Center.

Raleigh, which secured a contract in 2001 to host the major sport and social event through 2005, is expected to reap generous rewards not only from the exposure the tournament garners, but also from the millions of dollars that attendees, fans and vendors will drop in North Carolina's capital city and surrounding areas.

The six-day tournament is projected to have an economic impact of about $10 million, according to Martin Armes, communications and marketing director for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, which lobbied to keep the tournament in Raleigh.

Since the CIAA basketball tournament settled in Raleigh three years ago, it has generated more than $26 million in the tri-county area, and nearly $2 million in tax revenue for the city of Raleigh, says Lawrence E. Wray, Raleigh's assistant city manager for administration. Armes and other city officials believe that the impact will only increase in the coming years.

The marriage of Raleigh and the tournament was a natural fit, since there are three CIAA schools in the Greater Raleigh area, according to city and conference officials. Saint Augustine's College and Shaw University in Raleigh, and North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C. (Raleigh's sister city), are host schools for the tournament and have collectively earned a total of $500,000 to $600,000 during the tournament's stay in Raleigh.

Conference representatives say the CIAA did a marketing study of its fans and found that more than 20,000 fans live within a 60-mile radius of Raleigh, and nearly 53 percent of CIAA alumni live within a 100- to 175-mile radius of the city.

"[Raleigh] seems to be the heartbeat of the CIAA," says CIAA Commissioner Leon G. Kerry. "It's one of the best relationships we've had with a city. [The RBC Center] has about 70 skyboxes and 22,000 lower-level seats. It also has the ambiance because it's a new facility with box seats and a Jumbotron that attracts people and brings them in. That's been a plus for us."

It has also been a bonus for the city, says Mayor Charles Meeker, who took office in 2001. The success of the tournament and the increased participation year after year has spurred the city's efforts to bring more sporting events to Raleigh, such as the Jimmy v (former North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano) Women's Classic, a popular women's college basketball tournament that kicks off the women's NCAA season. …