Saturday, May 18, 2024

Charlotte Hornets give details of $215 million arena makeover

The Charlotte Hornets’ arena will close the next two NBA offseasons as it undergoes a $215 million taxpayer-funded renovation that will bring more seats closer to the court, additional premium suite and club offerings along with higher ticket prices, team officials say.

Hornets Sports & Entertainment offered a glimpse this week of the “transformational” changes the organization has in store for the NBA arena known as the Spectrum Center, which turns 20 years old in 2025. Renovation work will involve getting fans closer to the action, giving people places to hangout away from their assigned seats while still seeing the court and offering more premium options with clubs and suites.

The work will take place when the NBA doesn’t have games – between May and September of both 2024 and 2025 – and be complete by the start of the NBA season in October 2025.

Highlights for 2024 include:

  • New club construction and renovations
  • Suite level renovations
  • Uptown concourse upgrades

Highlights for 2025 include:

  • Additional 2,500 seats on lower level
  • Main concourse renovations
  • Arena “bowl” seat replacements

There will also be upgrades to technology and the sound system, more social gathering places near food and beverage areas and an opening up of the arena to increase visibility of the “bowl” area when people are away from their assigned seats.

The fan experience has been “top of mind at every stage throughout the reimagining process,” says Donna Julian, the Hornets Sports & Entertainment Executive Vice President & Spectrum Center General Manager.

Adding more seats to the lower level has long been a priority for the Hornets. The move will add “energy” to the game, Julian says. Another priority is giving fans areas where they can socialize and view the court, even if away from their assigned seats, she says.

In addition to NBA and college basketball games, the Spectrum Center regularly holds events ranging from national political conventions to major entertainment events. The 2012 Democratic National Convention alone brought in $160 million of economic impact to Charlotte hotels, bars and restaurants. Team officials say they’ll make an effort to bring in more events from October through April, while working around the Hornets’ NBA games, while work is being done.

“We have always viewed Spectrum Center as an important community asset that brings people together and has tremendous economic impact for our city,” says Julian.

“This is a monumental project for the tourism industry and the region as a whole,” added Steve Bagwell, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, in a statement released by the Hornets.

The city of Charlotte owns the arena, while the Hornets manage it and receive profits (and liabilities) from its operations. In June 2022, the Charlotte City Council agreed to spend $215 million on renovations, plus give the team an additional $60 million for a new training facility. As part of the agreement, the Hornets signed a 15-year lease extension, keeping the team at the Spectrum Center until 2045. The team has not decided where it will build its training facility.

Since the deal with the city of Charlotte, the Hornets have new ownership. In August, Michael Jordan sold his majority stake in the team for $3 billion to a group led by Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin, both New York investment firm principals. Jordan had paid $275 million for the team in 2010. Schnall had been a minority owner with the Atlanta Hawks and Plotkin owned a minority share of the Hornets.

The new owners will invest an undetermined amount of money in the renovation, Julian said. Schnall was part of the Hawks when its State Farms Arena underwent $192.5 million of renovations in 2017-2018.

The architect for the work at Spectrum Center will be Chicago-based Perkins and Will, which has Charlotte offices. New York-based Turner Construction, in partnership with Raleigh-based D.A. Everett Construction Group, will oversee the construction work.

The Hornets have always been ranked near the top in “affordability” for NBA tickets, but those ticket prices will increase between 10% and 20% with the arena improvements, according to team officials.


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