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CIAA Tournament Offers More Than Just Hoops

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RALEIGH — The 56th annual CIAA Tournament is officially under way, bringing together basketball teams from 12 historically black schools. However, for many fans, the games are secondary.

The weeklong event at the Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena, full of games and social functions, is expected to pump more than $8 million into the local economy. Teams from Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina will compete on the court to take home the ultimate bragging rights.

However, the competition is not just on the court. Fans love to play up the rivalry between the alma maters.

"I like the anxiousness that results from watching them worry about getting to the next level," says fan Lamont Upperman. "It has really developed into a great opportunity to see each other, have a great time and get away from the children."

For fan Harold Feimster, the tournament becomes an annual class reunion.

"This is like a great, big family. We come together for fellowship, and we meet new friends every time we come," he says.

A pep rally on Friday got people pumped up for the sold-out event.

"Because it was so successful last year, they opened up the upper level and had 1,000 more tickets to sell. They were gone in like a day or two," says event organizer Taylor Thomas. The good news: basketball is only part of the event that is expected to draw 30,000 people to Raleigh over the next few days. -->

Fashion shows, concerts and parties are also part of the fun.

The biggest party of all starts bright and early Friday morning when popular radio personality, Tom Joyner, will bring his Sky Show to the convention center.

Last year, people camped out overnight just for a chance to see the morning radio show in person.

The city of Raleigh is fighting to keep the CIAA in town when its contract runs out next year.

"I think we're going to earn the right to have that tournament back in Raleigh," says Mayor Paul Coble. "We want it to stay here. We think this is the home of the CIAA Tournament."

The men's tournament tips off Wednesday.