Steinburg can’t GIVE tickets away to his tax-funded basketball fiasco

According to Asheville officials, tickets to the Battle for The Blue Ridge are — in fact — slower than molasses:

The “Battle in the Blue Ridge” basketball tournament that Currituck County paid a state lawmaker’s company $50,000 to help promote starts Friday, and so far a little more than 100 tickets have been sold for the event.

The three-day college basketball tournament, to be held in the US Cellular Center in Asheville, had sold 107 tickets and generated $2,134 in gross ticket sales as of Thursday, according to the venue’s general manager, Chris Corl.[…] 

For those of you keeping score at home, here’s the data on the Asheville arena’s total seating capacity:

Sooooo — 107 is 1.39% of the arena’s total seating capacity. (It would be interesting to know how many lobbyists or lobbying groups kicked in to buy those 107 tickets.)  

 There will be NO TV coverage.  (So, your guess is as good as mine as to how people will be able to see the glossy promotional videos touting Currituck County as a vacation and retirement destination.)

The only North Carolina media outlet providing any sort of coverage is a Wilmington-area radio station that regularly broadcasts UNCW games.  (What are the chances of people, already living in Wilmington, being lured to Currituck for vacations or retirement?)  A radio station in eastern Illinois and one in Arkansas are also providing play-by-play to local residents in their respective regions.  THAT is IT.

The ol’ Battle for The Blue Ridge might get lucky and get a mention on the ESPN scores ticker that scrolls across the bottom of the screen at warp speed. 

Local drive-bys talked to senator-elect Steinburg about all of this:

[…] The tournament is being organized by the WolfeStein Group, which is owned by state House Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan. In a phone call Monday, Steinburg said ticket sales for this kind of tournament are typically low, and the tournament’s value to Currituck is measured in advertising through coverage through ESPN, social media, promotion through the schools themselves, and other forms of exposure. […]

Ticket sales for holiday tournaments typically low ????  Wow.  We’ve really swerved over into shameless lying territory.  

Case in point: The Charleston Classic held this past weekend in Charleston, South Carolina.  The host arena seats 5,100.  A total of 4,135 spectators showed up to watch #23 Purdue take on The Davidson Wildcats.  No home team there.  That’s 81% occupancy, my friends.

But, wait.  There was more:

[…]Steinburg has adamantly denied any impropriety or quid pro quo, and did so again on Monday. The tournament is an extremely cost-effective way to promote the county, and analysis of the event’s “impressions” afterward will prove so, he said.

Steinburg also explained that this weekend’s tournament, in which no team is a home team, is considered a “multi-team event,” or MTE. Such tournaments rarely have large ticket sales, even when popular teams or big schools are playing, he said, adding WolfeStein had donated a lot of tickets to nonprofits and charities in the Asheville area.

Steinburg said the tournament may not profitable for his company, but it would be effective in promoting Currituck, citing coverage — although not live broadcasting, he clarified — from ESPN, and other sports promotion. He also said he has emphasized that any mention of the tournament must include “”

SO far, ESPN is not saying anything about Currituck when it lists the upcoming untelevised games in Asheville.


[…] Bobby Steinburg also emphasized that ticket sales are not a valid measure of interest in a multi-team event tournament. […]

What does it mean, though, when ticket sales are low AND you can’t even get ESPN to bite on streaming ANY of the tournament action?


[…] He also explained that WolfeStein had chosen to donate tickets, rather than focus on selling them, to promote Currituck and as an act of good will. The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club, and Big Brothers Big Sisters are a few examples of the groups receiving tickets, he said.

“We’re going to have more people there than most MTEs,” he said.[…]

*Just not last weekend’s Charleston Classic.* MORE:

[…] However, Bobby Steinburg reiterated that the tournament’s success, from Currituck’s standpoint, lies in its mentions on ESPN and its website, and promotion through the schools.

Bobby Steinburg also said some of the criticisms of the event were from people who did not understand college basketball tournaments — including that it would be an easy or fast profit for the Steinburgs.

“Anyone who thinks this is a get-rich quick scheme is out of their minds,” he said, noting that just renting the venue and hiring officials will cost around $70,000.[…]

Don’t let this kind of talk fool you.  The Steinburgs got SEED MONEY from Currituck taxpayers to kick-start their start-up business.  They used their special relationship with Chairman Bobby Hanig and some other commissioners to make that happen.  If you had a plan for a new business that you and your child would run, could you go to the Currituck board and get some start-up cash?  HELL, NO.

The Steinburgs got a no-interest, no-risk grant to help kick-start their business.  Even if they lose money on this first year effort, they have resume material now.  They have an established tournament in place they can market year after year after year.  All courtesy of Currituck taxpayers. 

The awarding of the money raises some awkward questions for Currituck officials.  The $50,000 came from tourism funds.  Official county literature detailing the process for obtaining tourism funds clearly says the money is only to be used for events held in Currituck County.  (This event is being held in Buncombe County. )

Currituck County also has rules that any contract awarded in excess of $40,000 has to be reviewed and approved by the full board of commissioners.  The contract with the Steinburgs, as we have learned, was not.  (It was worth $50,000.)


[…]Currituck Tourism Director Tameron Kugler, who has said the tournament is a good tourism investment, did not respond to questions about the tournament on Monday. Currituck commissioners who could be reached for comment Monday offered only brief comment, owing to the tournament’s previous controversy.

[…] Asked if she was satisfied with how the tournament is coming together, Commissioner Kitty Etheridge said “I don’t really have any comment,” adding that she hadn’t heard much about the tournament.

Commissioner Mike Hall, who expressed skepticism about the tournament and concern about the lack of information about the tourney before it was approved, said Monday that “it is what it is.” […]