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Bojangles’ Coliseum, TWC Arena, BofA Stadium all to look better by fall

Workers scale scaffolding to replace flagpoles along the upper rim of Bank of America Stadium. Construction continued at Bank of America Stadium on Friday, June 12, 2015. Workers replaced flagpoles, pulled electrical wire and set concrete benches around the home of the Carolina Panthers.
Workers scale scaffolding to replace flagpoles along the upper rim of Bank of America Stadium. Construction continued at Bank of America Stadium on Friday, June 12, 2015. Workers replaced flagpoles, pulled electrical wire and set concrete benches around the home of the Carolina Panthers. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Bojangles’ Coliseum has a sound system as old as the McDonald’s franchise. Bank of America Stadium has notoriously bad cellular reception. Time Warner Cable Arena isn’t modern enough to host an all-star game.

For these reasons and more, the three Charlotte sports venues are spending the summer upgrading.

Gotta wanna needa... renovation

When the Charlotte Coliseum was built in 1955, it was the largest unsupported steel dome in the world. In 2015, it has a different name – Bojangles’ Coliseum – but it has the same seats and soundsystem it had during the Eisenhower administration.

That will change this summer, as the city begins $16 million worth of renovations on the publicly owned and operated arena.

About $4 million of the renovations are hockey specific, as the Charlotte Checkers minor-league hockey team will be moving into Bojangles’ for its 2015-2016 season. The city has said that the Checkers will pay it rent, allowing the city to recoup this $4 million over seven years.

“This renovation breathes new life into a 60-year old community gem with the return of the Checkers,” Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority spokeswoman Laura White said. “It’s incredible to see the number of people who have shared their memories of the building over the years during this process.”

The Coliseum’s last pre-renovation show was Wednesday at 7 p.m. Attendees heard Charlie Wilson through the same soundsystem that was used for Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Johnny Cash concerts.

This summer’s renovations will include wider seats, a new dressing room and an updated soundsystem and scoreboard.

White said the city plans to complete these renovations by Nov. 7.

Panthers staying fresh

After spending $65 million of public and private money last offseason, the Panthers are back in rebuilding mode this off-season. This time, though, the franchise is only using its own money.

The main objectives this off-season are a “suite refresh” and an upgrade to the distributed antenna system, which will boost cell phone service.

“We’re improving our cellular program,” Panthers Director of Stadium Operations Scott Paul said. “The demand on the cellular side with people is growing exponentially... People want their cell phones to work when they come into the stadium.”

Paul said the upgrade to the antenna system will be followed by a 2016 upgrade to the Wi-Fi system.

In 2016, the team will be receiving $12.5 million in public money, part of the $87.5 million deal the city made with the Panthers in 2013.

This year’s suite renovations include the refurbishing of 158 suites. The suites will get new walls, seats, televisions, carpets and countertops. It will not significantly alter the stadium’s capacity, Paul said.

Paul said the cellular and suite renovations will be “substantially complete” by the end of June and that the stadium will be fully renovated by the Chelsea soccer match on July 25.

Paul said he expects the team to release the full costs of the renovations after they are complete.

What can $33.5 million buy?

In September, Charlotte’s City Council approved spending $33.5 million over 10 years on Time Warner Cable Arena. The city’s contract with the Hornets necessitated the deal. It states that the city must keep the arena, which it owns and the Hornets operate, up to “NBA standards.”

Some of the money has already been spent. The arena’s most exclusive club, the Hardwood Club, has been expanded and redesigned, with new televisions and furniture. The event-level lounge has also been renovated.

The team also spent its own money this year on a new locker room that is shaped like a honeycomb, even though hornets don’t make honey.

This summer, the team plans to upgrade its Backcourt Club and start renovating its suites, team spokesman Josh Rosen said.

Eventually, much of the $33.5 million is to be spent on new bathrooms, lower-bowl seating, lighting and a scoreboard.

The improvements are expected to eventually land the city an NBA All-Star Game.

Steimer: (704) 358-5085

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