1. This is the 10th consecutive year Charlotte has hosted the annual Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament. The city almost lost the event, which brings in tons of revenue, last year, but managed to negotiate a new contract to keep it here at least until 2020.
2. In the past, visitors in town for CIAA often complained of price-gouging at hotels. This year, the conference took care of that. "We contracted 90 percent of the rooms downtown and some on the outskirts so we could build our own housing program," says CIAA commissioner Jacqie McWilliams, "to get the best rates possible for the fans of this event, so it's consistent across the board."
3. Tournament game ticket prices have dropped from the last couple of years. "The CRVA is actually covering the expenses for the building costs, so we now don't have the [usual] operational costs" and are able to do some new things, McWilliams says. Last year, upper level tickets for students were priced at $50. This year, anyone can get all-session upper level seats for $50. If center court is more your speed, those all-session ickets are $250.
4. From the conference's perspective, one of the biggest struggles has always been getting people to come to the actual games. When we spoke to McWilliams last week, she reported that they'd already sold more than $1.9 million in ticket revenue from the conference office alone, "which is significant." That's not counting what will be sold in the building this week.
5. Free alert! Formerly known as the Fan Experience, the Fan Fest now runs Thursday through Saturday instead of Friday through Sunday. "We reset that event to bring more energy for all those fans who are coming to town to go to the convention center," McWilliams says. Ricky Smiley and Tom Joyner will host their morning shows on Thursday and Friday, respectively, and John P. Kee, Elle Varner and Jeremih are all scheduled to perform.
6. Fun Fact: In addition to performing at the CIAA Legends of Hip Hop Concert on Thursday night, Doug E. Fresh is slated to appear at at least 10 other parties this week.
7. The CIAA hosts an official day party for the second year in a row, thanks to a partnership with Coors Light. "There are a lot of day parties that have nothing to do with CIAA," McWilliams says. This one, hosted at Rooftop 210 at EpiCentre from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday, isn't one of them.
8. Six hundred. That's how many pairs of shoes the CIAA, partnered with Coke Zero, plan to distribute to kids at Billingsville Elementary School in the first ever Shoes of Hope charity event.
9. When asked what's changed in the 10 years Charlotte has hosted the CIAA, McWilliams pointed to organizational structure. "The collaboration between the conference office and the city ... we have really joined hands in managing the direction of this event." She also talked of the important lesson she taught party promoters a few years ago of protecting one's trademark. Nowadays, event fliers don't say "CI," "CIAA" or "official" anymore. That's because the conference cracked down on that, hiring an attorney and sending out cease-and-desist letters to anyone who used their trademark without permission. "This tournament belongs to the CIAA and nobody else," McWilliams says.
10. Next year, locals, McWilliams could be living next door to you. The city of Charlotte contracted with the CIAA to move its headquarters here from Hampton, Virginia. McWilliams says they're currently looking at housing and office space and plan to be fully moved in by August 2016.