PNC Arena has had $4 billion economic impact on Wake County, Centennial Authority says

When PNC Arena turns 20 later this year, it’s estimated the facility will have had a $4 billion economic impact for Wake County since its opening in October 1999.

In 2018, the estimated economic impact for the county was about $262 million from the arena.

Those were two of the financial figures included in the Centennial Authority’s response to a request for information for hospitality projects by Wake County. The authority, an appointed body, is the arena landlord and is seeking enhancements to the facility that could cost an estimated $200 million to $300 million.

The authority is seeking the enhancement funds for:

  • New hospitality spaces on the south end of the arena facing Carter-Finley Stadium that would have a rooftop bar and restaurant as its centerpiece.

  • New club and concession spaces in the arena that the authority says will help “showcase the region’s food and beverage culture” while providing additional revenue streams.

  • New office and meeting spaces on the north end of the arena for staff offices and the “anticipated growth of Carolina Hurricanes operations and management.”

The Hurricanes’ lease with the authority ends in 2024, and the authority report said there were “ongoing discussions” with the Hurricanes on lease term options. N.C. State uses the arena for its men’s basketball games and commencement exercises, and the arena has hosted NCAA basketball regionals, concerts and family events.

The financial request for the enhancement and expansion needs approval from Wake County and the City of Raleigh, with the money being provided through the city and county Interlocal Agreement, which is funded by the hospitality industry’s hotel/motel and prepared-food tax.

“The time has come to make PNC Arena more versatile and competitive so we can continue building on the success of the first 20 years,” the authority request said.

Or as executive director Jeff Merritt said Tuesday to authority members, “We need to make sure it fits the 21st Century model of an arena. ... While we’ve done a great job of keeping up the infrastructure and guts and skeleton of the arena, we need to pump adrenaline into the building.”

Recent enhancements, requested by Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, include the installation of a 3D projection system and theatrical lighting. Plans call for a new scoreboard to be installed before next season.

The authority’s economic impact study was done by John Connaughton, a UNC Charlotte economist at the university’s Belk College of Business. Connaughton’s study indicated 46 percent of those attending PNC Arena events are from outside Wake County and that the arena generates about 142,000 hotel rooms each year, with hotel expenditures of $14 million a year. It’s estimated $6 million is spent at Wake County restaurants.

The authority, in the request, said if enhancement funds are approved this spring, the project could be completed by the summer of 2022.

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In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.