CIAA officials are saying more about the conference’s decision to ask other cities to bid on hosting its annual basketball tournament. Conference board chair James Anderson told WFAE Charlotte is a good host, but there are a couple of things that he’s unhappy about, including "price-gouging" by hotels. He also cited extra fees added to bills by some hotels and restaurants during CIAA tournaments. CIAA Commissioner Jacqui McWilliams says there have been challenges in the past, but the conference, city and tourism officials have done a good job of addressing them.
McWilliams spoke to WFAE's Marshall Terry on Wednesday.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Terry: Do you agree then that the hotels and other businesses have been engaged in price gouging during the tournament?
Jacqie McWilliams: We've had some challenges in the past but the CIAA and the CRVA and the City of Charlotte, we've worked together to forge a mutually beneficial relationship for our fans, alumni, student athletes, and working with the hotel industry here and also some of the local businesses to assure that they're giving fair pricing to our constituents and our group. So, there have been some challenges but I think we've done a good job in addressing those when they when they have occurred.
Terry: What about the incident involving a CIAA surcharge, nicknamed the black tax, that happened at the Ritz Carlton in 2015? Have you heard of other complaints from alumni about extra fees?
McWilliams: Throughout the years the Ritz-Carlton was a big and a major one that kind of exposed some things that were going on. I think we saw that as an opportunity to really address those concerns and issues, if they were happening at other establishments. And I think what happened with the Ritz really opened the door for some solid communication with the city, but also some of the establishments. I think we've done a really good job in bringing the businesses together over the last couple of years. We actually meet with some of the restaurants and some of the hotelers just to talk about any of the concerns and to make sure that those things don't happen in future years of the tournaments. So, again we've had some challenges in the past some of our fans have addressed those, but I do think we've done a really good job in working with the establishments and the CRVA and the city to address them.
Terry: I just want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly. I don't really hear you disagreeing or necessarily agreeing with Anderson.
McWilliams: Well again, I want to go on record and just say the misleading information that was shared, that speaks to the challenges that we face with alumni based on lingering anecdotal experiences and it really doesn't reflect the current relationship with the city. And what Anderson has spoken about are some concerns that we've had with our fans that have been impacted and it makes it appear like it's the entire community and it's not. I totally understand where he's coming from and us being able to address those concerns with our fans and our constituents is extremely important, not just here but anywhere that we go.
Terry: So again, I just want to make sure I’m clear, you're saying that some of these problems do happen but maybe it's not as widespread as it's been reported?
McWilliams: What I'm saying is those challenges have occurred here and I don't think it's just with the CIAA tournament. When you're dealing with an event this big and you have 140,000 people, you have an economic impact of over $50 million, you've got establishments that understand the value of this event. Things are going to happen and you mentioned the Ritz-Carlton, that happened. I don't believe it was intentional, but it happened. So, when those things do happen, they've been addressed. I can tell you in the last couple of years I've been really pleased at how the business community has worked with us to ensure that that's not happening… The other piece I'll share with you on the hotel side is that we have worked with ConferenceDirect to help manage the hotel prices for the CIAA block….When our fans stay out of the block, that's where you hear some of the issues and concerns….
Terry: Do you hope Charlotte will bid on the tournament in this process?
McWilliams: Oh absolutely. First of all, we're headquartered here. This is my home and we love Charlotte and we love the things that we've been able to do here in the last 13 years. And I do hope that Charlotte will submit a competitive bid…