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Legislation would pop cap on outdoor NHL game at Carter-Finley

Carolina Hurricanes owner hoping for outdoor NHL game at Carter-Finley Stadium

Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon discusses talks with the NHL about a possible outdoor hockey game to be played in Raleigh's Carter-Finley Stadium.
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Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon discusses talks with the NHL about a possible outdoor hockey game to be played in Raleigh's Carter-Finley Stadium.

Pending legislation to allow “one-time” alcohol sales at state university athletic facilities would move the Carolina Hurricanes closer to hosting an outdoor hockey game at Carter-Finley Stadium.

While general manager Don Waddell said Wednesday no formal bid has been submitted by the team to the NHL, the Hurricanes clearly want to host an outdoor game and are working through the logistics to help make it happen. He said there is no proposed date as yet although the Canes would like it “sooner rather than later, in the next couple of years for sure.”

The N.C. House was expected Wednesday to take up its amendments to Senate Bill 469, one of which includes a provision to allow the sale of beer, wine and mixed drinks at a “special event” involving “a professional sports organization” in a venue within the University of North Carolina system. Current law prohibits alcohol sales at state-owned athletic facilities with the exception of a specific exemption for the Blue Zone at North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium, although there are workarounds to allow alcohol consumption in N.C. State’s luxury seating at Carter-Finley and N.C. State events at PNC Arena.

The provision stipulates a special event one-time permit “to allow the retail sale of malt beverages, unfortified wine, fortified wine, or mixed beverages for consumption on the premises at a professional sporting event held at stadium with a seating capacity of at least 40,000 people.” If passed by the House, the bill would go back to the Senate for another vote, something that could take place as soon as Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes continue to press the issue with the NHL and N.C. State. Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon said in October that the game would most likely happen outside the NHL’s Stadium Series or Winter Classic marketing umbrella.

“We’ve talked to (NHL officials) about getting on the schedule for a game,” Waddell said. “There’s probably 20 teams trying to get on the same calendar for an outdoor game. They haven’t made any commitment back to us.”

Waddell said the game could attract as many as 57,000 people at Carter-Finley Stadium. It is not known how much revenue would be made -- for the Canes, N.C. State or the league.

“There’s lot of hurdles and (alcohol) is obviously one of them,” Waddell said. “The NHL, at these outdoor games, have big alcohol sponsors. So obviously that was a first step that has been presented.

“We started doing our due diligence and knocking things off the list that we can and alcohol was one that was pretty open-ended, with no time frame on it. It’s if we do get a game we would able to sell alcohol in Carter-Finley.”

Waddell said informal talks were held with athletic officials at N.C. State to “see if they were open to the idea” of using Carter-Finley for an outdoor game.

“It would be good publicity for them, especially it being a national TV game,” Waddell said. “They’d get recognition for N.C. State and the university.”

An N.C. State spokesman said the university was not actively involved in the alcohol legislation but remained supportive of the Hurricanes’ plans to use Carter-Finley and the benefits the event would bring to the commmunity.

Waddell said no formal negotiations on a potential deal will begin until “we get through some of the hurdles we know we have to get over.”

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.
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