(L to R) Haydee Patterson, Student Government Association(SGA) VP of Student Success & Engagement at Virginia State University, Ronnie Johnson SGA VP of Administration and Finance at Virginia State University, and Mekai Mckinney, 32nd Mr Virginia State University. (Photo: Carl Schmidt/Federal Hill Photography)

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament is in full swing in Baltimore – its home for the second straight year — bringing a jolt of energy to restaurants, hotels and other businesses downtown.

Opening round games began Tuesday inside the still-being-refurbished Baltimore Arena – now known as the CFG Bank arena. Championship games on both the men’s and women’s side are scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Gov. Wes Moore have taken delight in the tournament – which is bringing teams from historically Black colleges and universities into Baltimore during one of the slower tourist times of the year.

“The impact, the benefit, and the historical importance of hosting CIAA right here, in Charm City, for the second year in a row, is exciting to experience and is a big win for Baltimore,” the mayor tweeted on Thursday.

A photo gallery of early games and a Wednesday high school education day at the Baltimore Convention Center is below:

The arena is undergoing a $200 million renovation, and crews worked to make sure it was available for the tournament — a condition of allowing the project to proceed. The first event that will unveil all improvements is a Bruce Springsteen concert scheduled for April 7.

Eight teams started in the brackets for opening games, including include Bowie State University in Maryland. Several other teams are from Virginia.

In between games, players, staff, families and friends have been drinking in Baltimore – including participating in a Black Owned Restaurant Tour, which has featured 9 Baltimore restaurants.

“Everybody is benefiting from the excitement from CIAA, and in particular, since it is a historically Black college university basketball tournament, Black-owned restaurants are benefiting as well and are getting an additional focus,” Azikiwe Deveaux, the creator of the event and the owner of Events 4 Good People, told WMAR-TV.

Nine restaurants are participating, organized in part by the CIAA host committee.

A career expo at the Baltimore Convention Center was held on Thursday. According to Visit Baltimore, employers offered students information about internships and entry-level jobs, and collected résumés for future openings.

The Baltimore Convention Center also hosted the 2023 CIAA High School Education Day, where high school students were able to meet with representatives from various businesses, educational institutions, and government agencies.

#0 Freddie Young, Jr. from Lincoln drives towards the basket as #32 Augustine Ominu moves to defend during the Johnson C. Smith vs Lincoln mens’s opening round. (Photo: Carl Schmidt/Federal Hill Photography)
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David Nitkin

David Nitkin is the Executive Editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He is an award-winning journalist, having worked as State House Bureau Chief, White House Correspondent, Politics Editor and Metropolitan Editor...

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