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Posted: Monday, Jul. 16, 2012

Scramble begins to transform arena

By Celeste Smith
Published in: Democratic Convention

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With seven weeks left until the Democratic National Convention, the scramble began Tuesday to convert Time Warner Cable Arena into a showcase for the re-election of President Barack Obama.

Convention organizers took the keys to the arena on Monday, clearing the way to start the $7 million transformation for September’s event.

“We know this is your home, Bill,” convention CEO Steve Kerrigan said to Bill Duffy, executive vice president of the Charlotte Bobcats. “We promise to treat it well.”

Duffy handed Kerrigan the keys, attached to a key chain prominently featuring the red, white and blue convention logo. Convention organizers will have control of the arena until Sept. 28. That gives organizers three weeks after the convention to restore the arena to its original size and shape.

Although the city of Charlotte owns the arena, the Bobcats and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority jointly manage it. The Bobcats run the daily operations and are responsible for all profits and losses.

The host committee is paying $5 million to the Bobcats for the space, which is the convention site on Sept. 4 and 5.

A separate, $7 million construction budget goes toward reconfiguring the arena and restoring it, according to Theo LeCompte, chief operating officer of the Democratic National Convention Committee.

LeCompte said some of that construction budget – which also comes from the host committee – goes toward preparing Bank of America Stadium for the convention’s final night on Sept. 6, when Obama gives his acceptance speech. Extensive renovations won’t be needed at the stadium.

Nearly 200 workers are involved in the project, according to Pat Rodgers, CEO of Charlotte-based Rodgers Builders, which is part of the construction and architect team. Rodgers said most of those workers are from the Carolinas.

Arena work includes swapping out arena seats for camera stands, modifying suites for television network broadcasts, and upgrading electrical and technology systems.

Carpeting in the hallways of the suite level is covered with protective flooring to guard against any damage. Organizers also took a photo survey of the entire arena for before-and-after comparisons.

Also attending Tuesday’s ceremony were Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the convention chair. Spanish-language media representatives asked Villaraigosa what he and others were doing to boost Latino involvement in the convention.

Villaraigosa said supporters are delivering their messages to voters in both Spanish and English – and then began answering questions in Spanish.

Convention organizers also handpicked about 20 grassroots supporters to tweet about the key exchange.

“Time Warner Cable Arena tour is afoot! There are hard hats involved,” tweeted Briana DeFilippis, a senior at Providence High and convention intern.

Steve Harrison contributed.

Smith: 704-358-5087

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