Charlotte preps for road closures, massive congestion in uptown for NBA All-Star Game

Safety tips for 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend coming to Charlotte

Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department offers safety tips to people coming to the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend, as well as giving an update on traffic and security conditions that will impact Charlotte residents.
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Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department offers safety tips to people coming to the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend, as well as giving an update on traffic and security conditions that will impact Charlotte residents.

An estimated 150,000 visitors are expected to descend on Charlotte in a couple weeks for the NBA All-Star Game, the single largest sporting event the city has ever hosted.

The game takes place Feb. 17. But the week of festivities leading up to it will require several street closures, and people will also see disruptions to public transit, heavy security, limited parking options and a relocation of the uptown bus station.

City and business leaders anticipate heavy foot and vehicle traffic uptown the week and weekend of the game, and are urging commuters to be patient and use public transit when possible (although it will not be provided free of charge during All-Star week, according to the city.)

“One of our concerns is transportation and congestion,” Charlotte Hornets President Fred Whitfield told reporters after a press conference at the arena Thursday. “We’re working with corporate leaders to encourage them to maybe allow their employees to work remotely on Friday to cut down on some of the traffic flow.”

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority estimates that the All-Star Game will have a total economic impact of $100 million, and will draw roughly five times as many visitors to the city as the Democratic National Convention did in 2012. The DNC had an estimated economic impact of $164 million, according to the CRVA.

Most of the NBA congestion will be in uptown, given the game at the Spectrum Center and the fan fest at the Epicentre. But some events, such as the Celebrity Game, take place at Bojangles’ Coliseum, so the city is advising to avoid Independence Boulevard if possible on Friday afternoon.

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“As I’ve been saying for several months, the best plan in the world is not going to stop some of the congestion we’re anticipating in Charlotte. However, we’re going to try to mitigate that as best we can,” CMPD Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings said.

Public transit disruptions

During the weekend of the All-Star Game, the Charlotte Transportation Center adjacent to Spectrum Center will be relocated to the surface parking lot across from the 7th Street Station parking deck. Charlotte Area Transit System will provide a heated waiting area and restrooms to the thousands of daily commuters affected.

CATS says the relocation of the bus station is for security reasons. A similar measure was taken during the DNC in 2012, when the city moved the station to a lot near where BB&T Ballpark is now.

Also for security purposes, the LYNX Blue Line trains will operate with some disruptions in service.

Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) was named one of five All-Star starters from the Eastern Conference Thursday night. Brandon Dill AP

CATS will do a full security sweep of each train starting at 5 p.m. on Feb. 15-17 — this sweep takes place at the 3rd Street Station for northbound trains, and at the 7th Street Station for southbound trains. During the sweep, passengers will have to exit the train, then can re-board once the sweep is completed.

In another disruption to light-rail service, trains will not stop at the CTC/Arena Station during the All-Star weekend. Trains over the weekend are scheduled for every 15 minutes.

The Gold Line streetcar will not operate Feb. 15-17, either. A local CATS bus will provide service on routes 9-Central Avenue, 15-Randolph Road and 27-Monroe Road, the city says.

Security restrictions

Amid heightened security during All-Star weekend, large tote bags, backpacks and suitcases will not be allowed on board the trains or on station platforms, according to the city. Large bags won’t be allowed in or around the arena, either.

Some of the perimeter setup will begin around the arena the night of Feb. 13, Jennings said.

A number of roads around Spectrum Center will be closed during All-Star weekend, including Brevard and Caldwell streets between Fourth and Sixth streets, and East Trade and Fifth streets between North Davidson and College streets, according to the city.

E-scooters and bicycles won’t be allowed in areas around the arena, either, the city says.

Parking garages around uptown may all be full during the weekend.

“If you do not need to travel to uptown during this time, please avoid the area,” the city said in a statement.

To assist the thousands of visitors trying to navigate uptown over All-Star weekend, the city will deploy dozens of staff members to act as “ambassadors,” helping with directions and other logistical questions.

Construction projects

Some major construction projects are being suspended during the All-Star Game, too.

The NCDOT is doing bridge work on the inner loop of I-277 . Traffic is forced into one lane. The most recent phase is expected to be finished by the NBA All-Star weekend, Feb. 15-17.

The N.C. Department of Transportation, for instance, has been temporarily closing lanes on Interstate 277 as crews work to repair bridges on the inner loop. The construction underway on the bridges over Third, Stonewall and McDowell streets — which has backed up traffic and caused massive congestion into uptown — is expected to wrap up by All-Star week.

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NCDOT says it’s pausing the 277 project over the All-Star weekend, but lane closures will be in place during the week.

Crews will not be working on any uptown parts of the second phase of the Gold Line during the All-Star Game week, although the city says there may be work done elsewhere on the project, such as in Elizabeth or West End.

For more details and updates from the city about All-Star Game preparations, go to charlottenc.gov/nba.

As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.