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Charlotte Hornets arena upgrades go before city within a month

Posted August 12, 2014

By Erik Spanberg - Charlotte Business Journal

 

Coming soon to the Government Center: debate and details on whether the city will spend as much as $42 million on renovations at the home of the Charlotte Hornets.

Ron Kimblethe deputy city manager, told a business-networking group on Monday that the talks will begin within the next month.

Earlier this year, word trickled out as part of city budget discussions that the NBA franchise had submitted a wish list of arena upgrades. The two sides must decide which improvements meet the criteria in the arena lease between the city and team over required additions and renovations to maintain competitiveness with other arenas in the NBA.

Time Warner Cable Arena opened in 2005. The city paid construction costs for the $265 million, 19,000-seat arena, but the Hornets are responsible for managing and booking the building, paying any operating losses and keeping any profits.

“Those negotiations are going along very productively,” Mayor Dan Clodfelter told me Monday when asked about the talks between the city and the Hornets. “And I think we’ll probably see that begin to come together fairly soon.”

The mayor then asked Kimble, seated nearby at luncheon sponsored by the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club, when the city and council will discuss the arena. Better lighting, improved scoreboards and changes in the luxury seating areas are among the projects the team wants the city to fund, according to the earlier request.

Clodfelter said the arena improvements need to be made to strengthen the city’s bid to host the NBA All-Star Game. Hornets executives have targeted 2017 to stage the game uptown. Much like the Democratic National Convention — held at the arena in 2012 — the all-star game consumes much of a week with related parties, fan festivals, panel discussions and other events.

The mayor offered no specific details on how much the city should invest in the arena. City Council will decide the issue after hearing from the team and Kimble, among others.

In March, NBA Commissioner Adam Silverpaid a visit to the Charlotte arena and told reporters the team’s requested renovations would be important in the league’s consideration of whether to put the all-star game here. Charlotte Coliseum, since demolished, hosted the NBA all-stars in 1991. Michael Jordan, the Hornets’ majority owner, played in the game for the Eastern Conference.

Talks on using public money for the arena come on the heels of the Carolina Panthersfinishing the first phase of taxpayer-funded additions last month at Bank of America Stadium. In all, the city committed $87.5 million in tourism-tax revenue for the Panthers, including $75 million for scoreboards, escalators and updated heating and cooling systems. The Panthers pledged $37.5 million and plan to make improvements over the next five years during the off-seasons.

Unlike the NBA arena, the city doesn’t own the football stadium. The Panthers, through the sale of seat licenses, paid for the 18-year-old stadium using private money. Local and state tax money totaling $60 million paid for the stadium site and improvements to roads and sidewalks in the area.