The Virginian-Pilot reports that the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference basketball tournaments will likely remain in Norfolk, Va. for the next three years.
Sources told the Pilot that conference officials have signed a three-year extension to keep the men’s and women’s basketball championships in the city, which has slowly grown attendance over the course of its first three years. From the Pilot:
The tournaments moved to Norfolk in 2013 from Winston-Salem, N.C., and have seen a steady growth in ticket sales, from 52,293 in 2013 to 74,281 in 2016.
One of Norfolk’s biggest strengths is its central location, MEAC officials have said, with seven of the league’s 13 schools within a 4½-hour drive. With the contract ready to expire after this year’s event, the MEAC had put the tournament up for bid. The league had offers from several cities, officials said late last year.
Last March, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander challenged the conference to create more entertainment value add around the tournaments.
“People I know from Norfolk State and Hampton go to the CIAA tournament not to watch basketball, but because of the programming,” said Alexander, Norfolk’s first black mayor. “They have entertainment the MEAC doesn’t have, parties in the middle of the day.”
The MEAC does have events during tournament week. Alexander said he wants to see more.
“Give me a calendar of things I can do other than sitting in that arena,” Alexander said. “We want to talk with the MEAC about how we can help make them more relevant.”