Cary takes big economic hit with NCAA HB2 decision
Officials say the town will lose more than $2 million and an estimated 5,300 hotel room nights after the NCAA decided to relocate four championships from Cary because of House Bill 2.
In addition to the economic impact of the NCAA’s decision, many leaders say the biggest hit Cary could face is a loss to its reputation as an amateur sports destination. Cary has held 24 NCAA championships in various sports since 2003, according to town staff.
The NCAA announced Monday that the seven championships scheduled in North Carolina this academic year, including NCAA men’s basketball tournament games in Greensboro, would be relocated.
The Cary events are the Division I Women’s Soccer and Women’s Lacrosse Championships at WakeMed Soccer Park; the Division II Baseball Championship at the USA Baseball National Training Complex; and the Division III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships at Cary Tennis Park.
Many of the events have been held in Cary for years and attract thousands of visitors. This would have been the eighth year for the women’s soccer College Cup and the ninth year for the baseball tournament.
“Basically, we are no longer a NCAA championship city,” Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said. “We’ll continue to try to create that brand, but it’s important that everyone understands that the actions taken by the NCAA are not because of what Cary has done but because of what North Carolina has done.”
Cary Councilwoman Lori Bush groaned when she heard how much money Cary could lose with three championships scheduled within days of each other next May.
“It’s a tremendous loss for everyone across the state, and particularly in Cary, where we are known as the capital of amateur and youth sports,” said Bush, who favors repealing House Bill 2. “I think the brand of North Carolina is tarnished above and beyond anything.”
Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said Cary leaders have worked hard over the past 15 years to craft part of its brand as a college sports town and have created “world-class venues” to support this image. The Alliance is a division of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Over the years, the town has invested millions of dollars into developing, operating and expanding WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary Tennis Park and the USA Baseball National Training Complex to continue to attract new events. The canceled championships represent some of the largest events held at the venues, town staff said.
Dupree said Cary likely has held more NCAA championships in the last 15 years than any other city in the country.
“The reason they have so many of them is because they do such a superb job with them,” he said, adding that the town “rolled out the red carpet” for student athletes and other visitors. “They’ve spent so many years building that up, and now they’ve lost four at once.”
A history of hosting
In 2008, the NCAA selected Cary as one of six municipalities in its new NCAA Championship City pilot program, which offered opportunities to host Division I, II and III men’s and women’s championships through 2012. Although the program did not continue, Cary has remained a consistent NCAA championship host.
“Amateur sports is part of our character,” said Barry Mitsch, chair of the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors. “We were a NCAA championship community, so it’s part of who we are. So that’s a loss beyond economic value.”
Since House Bill 2 was passed, Cary has felt the effects of the law. Deutsche Bank cited HB2 in April when it announced it would halt plans to add 250 jobs in Cary with an average salary of $85,600. Singer Ringo Starr canceled his June 18 concert at the town’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre.
Weinbrecht said late Monday he’s “extremely disappointed” that HB2 is costing the town millions of dollars and the opportunity to host the championships.
“We are currently viewed as a discriminatory state by many of the businesses who have decided not to consider us in their future plans,” he wrote. “Now the NCAA has been added to the list.”
The town already has done “considerable work” to prepare for the December soccer tournament, a town spokeswoman said, including hosting NCAA staff last month, preparing the field, ordering supplies and selling tickets.
Councilman Don Frantz, who hopes to see HB2 amended but not repealed, said he disagreed that the loss would affect Cary’s brand. He said he’s still concerned about the impact HB2 could have on future events but added that it is “out of our hands.”
“It is deplorable that an organization such as the NCAA would punish student athletes, their families and our community for something they had nothing to do with because of politics,” he said. “The organization is free to do whatever they please, and I’m free to no longer support the NCAA. If politics are more important than sportsmanship and communities then that’s their choice.”
An NCAA championship scheduled in Cary in 2018 – the Division II baseball championship – has not been canceled, but Dupree said he is worried about the outcome of this event, as well as future events.
NCAA’s current bid process for the 2018-19 through 2021-22 championships already is underway, and several Wake County municipalities and organizations have submitted bids for 57 NCAA championships, he said. Cary and N.C. State University submitted most of the bids, Dupree said. That was before HB2. Now he said he’s unsure of the outcome.
He estimated that Wake County would have stood to gain about $35 million from the games awarded during the process. These losses not only will affect the places they are held, like Cary or Raleigh, but also surrounding cities where visitors would have shopped, dined or stayed overnight.
Cary staff estimate that the Women’s College Cup draws 20,000 people for the two games, for example, while the baseball games would attract 12,500 over eight days.
Dupree said he also is concerned the NCAA’s move could affect other sports organizations’ decisions to hold their events in North Carolina.
“I’m concerned about that becoming a snowball effect and what other events down the road could be in jeopardy because of NCAA’s announcement,” he said.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon
What’s leaving Cary
The following events were scheduled at Cary venues.
▪ 2016 Division I Women’s Soccer Championship, Dec. 2 and 4 at WakeMed Soccer Park
▪ 2017 Division III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships, May 22-27 at Cary Tennis Park
▪ 2017 Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship, May 26 and 28 at WakeMed Soccer Park
▪ 2017 Division II Baseball Championship, May 27-June 3 at USA Baseball National Training Complex
Cary & the NCAA
Cary has hosted 24 NCAA championships in various sports since 2003. In 2008, the NCAA selected Cary to serve as one of the inaugural members in its “NCAA Championship City” pilot program that featured host opportunities of NCAA Division I, II and III men’s and women’s championships through the end of 2012.
The town has hosted these events in the past:
▪ Women’s Soccer College Cup (Division I Soccer Championship) at WakeMed Soccer Park: 7 years (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015)
▪ Men’s College Cup (Division I Soccer Championship) at WakeMed Soccer Park: 4 years (2005, 2007, 2009, 2014)
▪ Division II Baseball Championship at USA Baseball National Training Complex: 8 yrs (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
▪ Division III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships at Cary Tennis Park: 2012
▪ Division III Cross Country Regionals: 2011
▪ Division II Cross Country: 2003
▪ Division I Baseball Regionals and Super Regionals: 2008 (UNC was the host institution)