One of our miscellaneous preseason stories discussed the potential locations for the 2014 CAA Tournament. Last Wednesday, it was announced that the CAA had reached an agreement with the city of Baltimore to bring the conference tournament to the Charm City from 2014-2016. This article was exceptionally well-written and researched. The student correctly selected the First Mariner Arena as the top choice for the tournament’s new location.

From the article:

Pros:

  • Seats 12,500 fans, holding 500-600 more people than the Richmond Coliseum
  • Central location for a majority of the CAA conference
  • Located close to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, a great place to shop, eat, explore and visit
  • Public transportation is readily available for fans, including Baltimore’s Metro and Light Rail systems
  • The arena has accessible seating and elevators for fans who may need accommodations
  • Because Baltimore is a large city, there is a wide variety of restaurants, tourist attractions, night life and hotels
  • Moving the tournament to a central location such as Baltimore may draw more fans who have not attended the tournament in the past
  • A tournament held in Baltimore would be the first CAA championship held outside of the state of Virginia for a league that by next year will boast just three Virginia schools

Cons:

  • Generally, there is traffic on the majority of highways entering the city
  • March may prove to be too cold to fully enjoy some of the Inner Harbor’s tourist attractions
  • VCU has left the CAA, taking with it a dominant fan presence at the annual tournament. This leaves uncertainty as to who will show up for a tournament held in Baltimore in the hopes of maintaining what has been a near sell-out event each year. A majority of Towson fans, perhaps?

Here are some student viewpoints from around the CAA:

“Well, as the lone member from Boston, any time the conference moves north we are happy. After coping with the Richmond bias for so long, I think Baltimore is a great middle ground. The city has a nearby school in Towson and since it’s a pretty large city, there are alumni from a variety of schools nearby. It’s also good for schools like Hofstra and Northeastern to not have to travel as far. VCU’s hometown advantage got old for all of us. Hopefully Towson won’t have too much of an advantage as they continue to rebuild under Coach Skerry, but I digress. As far as I can tell Northeastern has a pretty strong alumni base in Baltimore, so we should be able to attract our share of fans. Coming from Boston, hosting the tourney in a bigger city will make us feel more at home. The variety of attractions and restaurants nearby is a benefit. I think Baltimore splits the CAA pretty well and I believe it will be a satisfactory place to host the CAA Tournament.” – Northeastern University

“As far as the tournament location goes, personally, I think it’s a good move. It makes sense from a geographic standpoint. Baltimore is a bigger stage than Richmond, and the facilities are probably a bit nicer than the Coliseum’s. From [the standpoint of a W&M student] it’s a bit of a disappointment because Baltimore is obviously farther from Williamsburg than Richmond, but the CAA tourney is usually during spring break, so students can travel if they want. While W&M has a strong alumni base in Richmond, it has an equally good (if not better) alumni base in NoVA/DC/Baltimore, so I don’t really see it impacting things that much.” – The College of William & Mary

“I like the move, and the fans seem to as well. It’s farther for us to drive but it makes sense for the CAA.” – University of North Carolina at Wilmington

As a JMU student who grew up 15 minutes from the Coliseum, it’s tough to see the tournament leave Richmond. It’s also logically unavoidable to account for the shifting market. The conference officials recognized the need to make the tournament more accessible to students and alumni from Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra, Northeastern and Towson.

It should be a shorter drive for Mason fans (as mentioned, the traffic in this area is unpredictable). James Madison and William & Mary students will have farther to go, but the fact that the tournament usually coincides with spring break should help. The drive for UNCW fans will be even farther, but they showed with the Blizzard-Goldsberry teams that they’ll travel to support. It’s been mentioned that many CAA alumni live in close proximity to Baltimore, and I think the future tournaments will reflect this.

College of Charleston will replace Georgia State as the conference’s southern boundary, and while I’m not sure how the Cougars’ fan base travels, Baltimore probably represents a better destination than Richmond (although it’s an extra three hours in the car each way). It’s seems like a good fit for us all, but if Towson’s PA announcer is selected to announce the tournament, we may have a problem.

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