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CIAA officials hope to get more people into the games this year



It's a well-known fact that the week of the CIAA tournament means popping bottles of Champagne, people dressed to impress, celebrities in Charlotte and, oh yeah, a few basketball games.

The defending CIAA men's champions are Charlotte's own Johnson C. Smith University Golden Bulls. And while the team may be gearing up for a repeat, many people who attend the tournament are ready to get their groove on at one of the hundreds of parties going on this week.

But this year, the league is trying to push more attendees inside the arena with A-list artists performing at halftime during the games and huge giveaways from Ford and Lowe's.

Fans who head to games will have a chance to compete for more than $100,000 worth of cash and prizes, including a brand-new Ford Focus.

They will also see live performances by R&B singer Chrisette Michele, comedian Tone-X, DJ Funkmaster Flex and more.

CIAA commissioner Leon Kerry said the changes this year have a lot to do with putting booties in seats and making fans happy.

"What we've done the last three years is try to get everybody to come to Charlotte. Now we want to make the arena exciting," said Kerry. "One thing last year I noticed was that the halftime shows weren't exciting. We didn't have fun with the fans, and this year we're trying to have fun ... and make sure the festivities are exciting and people will stay in their seats."

J.C. Smith basketball head coach Stephen Joyner is all for the push to get more people into Time Warner's big box.

"I think the CIAA has branded themselves as an event, and they have focused a lot on the event in and around basketball. Clearly, the caveat that is bringing everybody to the tournament is basketball," he said.

Still, with more people inside, it makes you wonder if this will mean shorter lines at the day parties.

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