In back-to-back press releases Friday morning, the McCrory administration announced two sporting events would come to North Carolina in 2018: The Hula Bowl and the World Equestrian Games.
The Hula Bowl, college football's version of an All-Star game, will come to Carter-Finley Stadium in January, and the equestrian games, administered by the Federation Equestre Internationale, will take place at Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring in September.
The announcements, released separately before noon Friday, come one day after Forbes estimated the business losses of House Bill 2 at $630 million. HB2 is the North Carolina law that requires people to use public restrooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate and limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.
According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, the last equestrian games, held in Normandy, France, drew 500,000 spectators from 70 countries and created an economic impact of $414 million. The 14-day event is held every four years.
In addition to the sporting events, Commerce officials also announced two company jobs expansions. JELD-WEN, a windows and doors manufacturer, said it is planning a new corporate campus and training center in Charlotte and anticipates it will add 200 jobs in Mecklenburg County. Lotus Bakeries plans to create 60 new jobs to open its first U.S manufacturing operation in Alamance County.
The specifics for the Hula Bowl appear to have come together quickly, as many connected with the N.C. State Athletics department did not know it had been finalized until reading the press release or hearing of the announcement from a reporter.
"We were contacted by the Hula Bowl about bringing this game to Raleigh, and look forward to working with the promoter on finalizing details," the Wolfpack athletics office said in a statement Friday afternoon.
The Hula Bowl had been held in Hawaii, but ceased operations after 2008 in the wake of declining fan interest and the onslaught of the recession. The last game drew "a few thousand" in attendance, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Before the National Football League brought the pro bowl to Honolulu, the Hula Bowl had been more popular, even drawing 43,000 fans one year, according to the newspaper.
The game is a sort of All-Star game for college football and played in an East vs. West format. Although it features college football players, it is not an NCAA event. The collegiate athletics association announced in September it would pull championship events out of North Carolina citing HB2, and the Atlantic Coast Conference followed suit just two days after the NCAA's announcement.
Gov. Pat McCrory, locked in a tight re-election campaign, touted the events as big wins for the state, but the campaign did not answer follow-up questions about the timing of the announcements or how the deals came together. Commerce department officials deferred questions about the Hula Bowl to the organization's owner Jennifer Logan, who did not return phone messages.
"I am confident that North Carolina will host the best games yet before the eyes of the world," McCrory said in a statement. "With the potential to be the largest sporting event in our state's history, we look forward to welcoming competitors and spectators from around the world. This announcement will be a significant boost to North Carolina's rapidly growing economy."
The campaign of Roy Cooper, McCrory's challenger in the gubernatorial race, said McCrory's actions have still done more to hurt the state's economy than help it.
"Governor McCrory's discriminatory law has caused severe damage on our state's economy and reputation," said Cooper's campaign spokesman Jamal Little in a statement. "While he continues to try to ignore the economic damage done by HB2, voters have not forgotten. We've lost the NCAA championship games, the ACC tournament, the NBA All-Star game, and countless concerts and conventions — while the Governor calls HB2 irrelevant. That's not leadership, and North Carolinians deserve better."