Editorial: HB2 folly sends fans, NC jobs and millions to other states
Posted December 2, 2016
A CBC Editorial: Friday, Dec.2, 2016; Editorial# 8089
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
This weekend North Carolina is boosting the economies of Florida and California.
The ACC football championship, which was supposed to be played in Charlotte, is being hosted by Orlando. $32 MILLION. Cha-ching!
The NCAA Division 1 Women’s Soccer Championship (featuring the UNC Tar Heels), was supposed to be in Cary. Instead of playing in front of a home-state crowd, the Heels are at the championships on the west coast, in San Jose. $4 MILLION. Cha-ching!
North Carolina-based vendors, merchants, restaurants, motels – all that just a few months ago were anticipating a big-business weekend – are quiet and struggling. The reason is House Bill 2.
No one understands it better than Hill Carrow, CEO of Sports & Properties Inc., a sports and entertainment marketing and development firm. He founded the State Games of North Carolina, the Triangle Sports Commission and the N.C. Sports Association. If he didn’t invent sports tourism, he coined the term.
Since the mid-1980s there’s hardly been a significant sporting event – large or small -- in North Carolina that he hasn’t had a hand in. His work has been instrumental in making the state third in the nation in landing NCAA tournament and championship events.
In a single day in March, Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly brought all that to a screeching halt. HB2 has jeopardized what Carrow, who works with many groups organizing sporting events including Capitol Broadcasting Company, has spent more than 30 years building.
Right now, he estimates, North Carolina communities are pitching themselves to host more than 200 sporting events – from the USA Rugby college championships and national figure skating championships to NCAA regional and national championships.
In a matter of weeks, in fact, the NCAA will be making decisions on which locations will host regional and national events from 2018 through 2022. Unless something miraculously changes soon, HB2 will put North Carolina out of the picture. The hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs associated with those events will enrich other communities in other states.
How bad is it? Carrow says the folks who run the National Figure Skating Championships are just in love with North Carolina. The 2015 national in Greensboro was a smashing success. The praise for the local organizers and community support was universal and included regional events in Raleigh and Charlotte.
But now, Carrow says he can’t even get the association to send him an “RFP” (request for proposal) to bid to host a future championship.
The national Masters’ Championships, a sort of Olympics for older athletes, was first organized by Carrow and launched in North Carolina. But with many of the athletes reluctant to come to North Carolina, the championships have been moved to California.
“It is a challenge to offer, sell and promote our state when we’ve got this dark cloud hanging over our heads,” Carrow said. “HB2 is a part of every consideration, whether we like it or not. It’s just bad for business.”
The loss of a significant sporting event, Carrow points out, is very different than the loss of a similar-sized event for, say, a professional association. A conference or convention has limited reach.
Sporting events attract families and fans from far and wide to North Carolina. Events are broadcast and spectators can attend – making it entertainment for an entire community.
This is the kind of branding that doesn’t just build a sport, but shows the vitality of a community. “It displays the quality of life and entertainment opportunities,” Carrow said. “It is brand building.”
As Carrow points out, the devastating impact of HB2 isn’t short-term. As long as the legislature stubbornly clings to it, it will limit our economy, slow our progress and mire our image in disrepute.
Decisions are being made now that will close North Carolina out from sporting events – and the recognition and goodwill that come with them – for at least five years.
HB2 is discriminatory. Businesses, entertainers and associations are avoiding North Carolina because they know HB2 is bad business.
North Carolina cannot wait. It needs to be repealed at the earliest opportunity.