It’s easy to lose things in a building the size of an airport terminal, so there have been surprises during the $16 million renovation of Charlotte’s Bojangles’ Coliseum, built in 1955.
The best examples are two ticket windows that appeared like hidden tombs after crews recently removed sections of old sheet rock.
Coliseum operations manager George Hite says the ticket booths had been covered up and forgotten about two decades ago.
“You definitely feel like you’re touching a lot of history when you’re trying to recreate a place this old,” said Hite, who has been part of the staff for decades. “Been many a drill bit broken. I bet we got slabs of floor concrete eight to 10 inches thick and some of the walls are four to six inches thick. They built things tough back then.”
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Even garbage found stashed in the building has been inspiring, he says. Some decades’ old cups were discovered behind the walls with logos for the Charlotte Coliseum (the site’s original name) and the adjacent Ovens Auditorium. Hite says they’re now discussing whether the food service vendor might take those logos and incorporate them into something new.
Among the most noticeable changes for fans will be a complete replacement of the original 9,200 gold colored wooden chairs.
When first opened, the building was the largest unsupported steel dome coliseum in the nation. The facility has been known by many names: Charlotte Coliseum, Independence Arena, Cricket Arena and since 2008 as Bojangles’ Coliseum.
The ongoing renovation marks the first time the coliseum has received a makeover in its 60 years. It was at one point among the most prominent entertainment venues in the South, attracting acts ranging from Elvis to James Brown to crusades by evangelist Billy Graham.
Renovation began June 22 and is about half complete, officials said during a media tour Wednesday. Work will continue into October, when the coliseum is slated to host a college graduation ceremony. The site is also home to the Charlotte Checkers hockey team, which will kick off its season there Nov. 7.
Among the most noticeable changes for fans will be a complete replacement of the original 9,200 gold colored wooden chairs. They are being replaced by slightly larger red-and-gray plastic chairs. The additional few inches width on the new seats means about 600 fewer will be installed at the site, officials said.
Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which manages the city-owned property, saved 800 of the old seats as souvenirs and plans to redistribute them to several hundred fans Sept. 9-10. Recipients were picked from an online registration earlier this summer, and will pay a small fee to buy pairs.
The renovation also will include replacing the sound system, expanding locker rooms and replacing the scoreboard that dominated the ceiling.
Hite said one of the upgrades he’s most excited about is the creation of grand entrance for the Charlotte Checkers. A wall section has been removed, opening up an exit from the team’s locker room onto the coliseum floor.
The really cool part, he says, is that the team’s trek out onto the ice will take the players directly through diners in the revamped Coliseum Club.