Charlotte Bobcats, CRVA seek $41.9 million to update arena

sharrison@charlotteobserver.comMarch 20, 2014 

To keep Time Warner Cable Arena among the NBA’s most modern buildings, the Charlotte Bobcats and tourism officials have submitted a $41.9 million list of improvements to the city of Charlotte.

The request includes suite improvements, restaurant renovations and moving the ticket office at the 8 1/2-year-old facility.

It comes less than a year after the City Council voted to give $87.5 million for stadium improvements for the Carolina Panthers.

When the city and Bobcats signed a 25-year arena lease, one provision called for the Bobcats and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which together manage the city-owned facility, to conduct a review of the $260 million arena’s needs seven years after its opening.

The CRVA said the arena needs $7.8 million in work over the next five years.

The Bobcats’ list adds $34.1 million in improvements over the next four years.

The lease calls for the city to make improvements to the building to keep it among the most modern in the NBA, to ensure the team can “maintain economic competitiveness and revenue potential.”

But there will likely be negotiations between the team and the city as to what is needed and what isn’t, and what the city is obligated to pay for, said Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble.

The city, CRVA and Bobcats have a complicated relationship to run the arena.

The city paid for and owns the building. The CRVA operates “back of the house” functions such as HVAC, and is reimbursed for those services by the Bobcats.

And the Bobcats are not only the main tenant, but they operate the building as well. They book other events, such as concerts, and are allowed to keep operating profits but must also absorb losses if they don’t have enough events.

The city disclosed that the arena may need more than $40 million in improvements at a City Council budget meeting Wednesday. The city also said Bojangles’ Coliseum, built in 1955, might need $51 million of work.

2005 opening

Time Warner Cable Arena opened with a Rolling Stones concert in October 2005.

Two NBA arenas have been built since the new Charlotte arena opened – the Amway Center in Orlando (2010) and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (2012).

Older arenas could have been renovated in the past eight years, however.

The CRVA’s request for the arena includes items such as HVAC work, carpet, spotlights, aisle lighting and plumbing.

For the coming fiscal year, which begins in July, the Bobcats have requested a total of $7.8 million in work. Projects include: $1.27 million for “event-level” restaurant refurbishment; $1.42 million to move the ticket office; and $2.5 million for floor repairs.

For fiscal year 2016, some of the team’s big-ticket items include $1.6 million to improve hospitality space; $5.9 million to improve suites and $2.3 million to remake the Founders Level restaurant.

For 2017 and 2018, the team’s list includes $7.7 million for “scoring and video equipment update”; $1.3 million for HD broadcast infrastructure; $2.5 million for a youth activity area in the upper concourse and $3.5 million for “exterior digital equipment.”

“The Bobcats must submit very detailed justification for all items,” Kimble said. “They are beginning that process now.”

The Bobcats couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. The CRVA referred questions to the city.

Agreement details

The arena agreement excludes some possible upgrades from being the city’s responsibility.

Any significant structural change to the building is excluded. In addition, if there was an improvement that already existed in half of NBA arenas when the agreement was signed, the team can’t ask the city to pay for it later.

The city and the NBA team, then owned by Bob Johnson, worked together to design and build the arena.

It’s unclear how the city would pay for arena improvements.

It’s possible the city could use money from the hotel/motel occupancy tax, which can fund general tourism projects.

Last year, the City Council voted to give the Carolina Panthers $87.5 million for improvements to Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year “tether” to keep the team in Charlotte. That money came from the city’s Convention Center fund, which is funded by a hotel/motel tax and a prepared food and beverage tax.

The arena improvements are part of a new $290 million list of projects that the city said it may need through 2019. The City Council was scheduled to discuss the list Wednesday but ran out of time.

The city has spent money each year maintaining the arena. The agreement calls for the city to deposit $500,000 annually into a capital account, with the team depositing $250,000 each year.

Kimble said most of that money has been spent on routine maintenance.

Harrison: 704-358-5160

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