Bobcats with a home game in Triangle?

Team considering playing a few games at other sites

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comOctober 18, 2012 

With a Charlotte Bobcats-Miami Heat exhibition nearing a sellout in Raleigh Tuesday, Bobcats management says it could eventually play a regular-season NBA game in the Triangle.

This would be part of an expanded effort at marketing the Bobcats throughout the Carolinas.

“Down the line we wouldn’t rule out a regular-season contest in an alternate market,” chief marketing officer Pete Guelli told the Charlotte Observer Thursday. “If we see the response as the team starts to improve, if that’s really going to help us from a marketing perspective, that’s something we’d consider.”

Bobcats president Fred Whitfield said moving a regular-season home game outside Time Warner Cable Arena has been discussed “at a very high level internally,” and that the Bobcats are allowed to play up to two regular-season games a season outside Charlotte.

Whitfield said any other arena would have to be “NBA quality,” which likely limits options to at most three sites in the Carolinas: PNC Arena, where the Bobcats and Heat play Tuesday at 7 p.m., the Greensboro Coliseum or the Dean Smith Center on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus.

PNC Arena is intriguing, in that it already is home to the NHL Carolina Hurricanes, along with N.C. State basketball. The Bobcats and Hurricanes previously agreed to play a preseason game in each other’s arena. The Hurricanes played here last fall and the Bobcats now return the favor.

Marketing regionally is a major push for the Bobcats, since Charlotte is one of the smaller NBA cities. However, Charlotte is surrounded by secondary markets – Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Columbia, and Greenville, S.C. – that could raise ticket sales and television ratings.

Guelli previously worked for the NFL Buffalo Bills, employing a similar regional strategy to beef up revenue. The Bills moved training camp to Rochester, N.Y., and now play a regular-season game each season in Toronto.

“At some point, we have to seriously contemplate that option,” Guelli said of playing a regular-season game outside Charlotte for marketing. “This is one of the few markets (in the NBA) where that makes sense.”

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