Cary Again a ‘Championship Town’

WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary will be the site of seven NCAA championship games.

Earning bids to host 11 future NCAA Championship events, the Town of Cary has reasserted itself as an amateur sports championship destination.

The NCAA announced the locations for 450 championship events across all three divisions from 2022 through 2026 earlier in October. Cary headlined the selections in North Carolina, receiving the bulk of 13 events to be held in the Raleigh area during that period.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Lori Bush, Cary Town Councilmember. “It’s not only the recognition associated with our venues and what we call the Cary way of holding events, it’s also a big deal because it brings in a huge amount of economic impact associated with visitor spending.”

To date, Cary has hosted 26 NCAA Championship events. This time around, the Town expects the 11 events to amount to about $9 million in direct spending, raising additional tax revenue that will boost the local economy.

Mark Lawson, vice president of economic development for the Cary Chamber of Commerce, says much of that direct spending in the Triangle will benefit restaurants and hotels, two industries that have been hit hard by COVID-19 this year.

“It’s going to be a tremendous impact and a really good lift based on the effects of what COVID has done,” Lawson said. “The timing of the announcement could not have come at a better time, just to really bring back the excitement with Cary being known as a championship town. I couldn’t be happier.”

WakeMed Soccer Park will host seven Division I championship events, more than any other location in the country. The facility will host the men’s soccer College Cup in 2022 and 2025; the women’s soccer College Cup from 2022 to 2024; and the women’s lacrosse National Championship in 2023 and 2024. UNC-Chapel Hill will be the host university for all of those events.

Continuing in its partnership since 2009, the Division II College World Series will also stay in Cary at USA Baseball National Training Complex all four years. The facility has hosted the tournament 10 of the last 11 years.

A relationship repaired

Out of more than 3,000 bids submitted from around the country in February, North Carolina was awarded 28 championship events, third-most in the country behind only California and Texas.

The promise of future events across the state marks a repaired relationship with the NCAA, which withdrew seven events in 2016 in response to the state’s controversial “bathroom bill,” HB2.

In the wake of losing those events, Cary missed out on an estimated $2 million that year. Many Cary officials worried that the Town’s reputation with the NCAA would be irreparably damaged.

Just four years later, those worries seem to be behind it with a much brighter future ahead.

“I do believe that we’ve improved our brand associated with Cary and with the state,” Bush said. “The NCAA has clearly changed their mind now that … HB2 is gone.”

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