BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The 2022 CIAA Basketball Tournament drew 36,390 fans and had a total economic impact of $19.6 million, falling short of earlier projections, according to an analysis from the tourism booster group Visit Baltimore.

Many fans went to multiple games during the tournament. Overall attendance at the 22 games exceeded 66,000 spectators, organizers said in March, including a crowd of 13,207 for the two championship games.

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In January, with the tournament about a month away, officials estimated 100,000 spectators would attend the men’s and women’s tournaments, delivering an economic impact of $50 million.

“We are a city that combines Black excellence with an unmatched love for sports, which makes the CIAA Tournament a perfect fit for Baltimore,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “As the CIAA Tournament grows in Baltimore year over year, we are excited to continue working closely with partners from the City, State, and local business community to build momentum for the event.”

After spending the last 17 years in Charlotte, the conference of historically black colleges and universities brought its tournament to Baltimore, from Feb. 22-26, for the first time since 1952.

Aside from basketball, festivities included a black-owned restaurant tour, concerts with DJ Jazzy Jeff, Rakim, Rare Essence and Big Daddy Kane, an education day and career expo, and a pop-up market highlighting Black artists to the city.

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The five-day event had a direct spending impact of $13.9 million, Visit Baltimore said, with $11 million in off-site spending on lodging, food and entertainment, and retail items.

Al Hutchinson, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, said between Feb. 24-26, hotel occupancy was 65.5%, the highest it has been during that same period since 2007.

The city landed the tournament in 2019, under former Mayor Catherine Pugh. Due to COVID-19, the tournaments were canceled in 2021, the first year the event was scheduled to be held in Baltimore, but the CIAA held a series of virtual events.

The conference, made up of 12 schools, including seven in North Carolina, two in Virginia, and one each in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Maryland, is set to bring its basketball tournament back to Baltimore in 2023.

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“We are incredibly proud of the work that our collective teams did to make the tournament’s first year in Baltimore a resounding success on all fronts, specifically during a pandemic and after moving to a new city,” said Jaquie McWilliams, commissioner of the CIAA.

Brandon Weigel