Community leaders and city officials gathered Wednesday at Bojangles’ Coliseum to get their first glimpse of Phase One of the historic venue’s ongoing $16 million renovation.
Built in 1955, the site was once among the South’s largest entertainment venues, attracting such acts as Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and James Brown. Evangelist Billy Graham also held crusades there.
Little was done to improve its appearance over those six decades, until city leaders decided to invest enough money for a complete makeover this year. The completed first phase includes new seating, scoreboard, ribbon boards and sound system.
Charlotte City Council member Vi Lyles was among those who toured the venue, and she cited the improvements as a potential catalyst for more development in the area.
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“What we have here is a sign that others will recognize as our commitment to this part of Charlotte. It’s not just a good place to visit, but it’s a good place to work, and it shows this area is a good place to live,” said Lyles, who recalled attending shows at the site in its heyday.
“I was a teen and I saw the 5th Dimension, and the opening act was Earth, Wind & Fire. Imagine that.”
Additional upgrades will be made next summer, such as improvements to storm drainage and the electrical and mechanical systems.
The ribbon cutting was staged Wednesday in advance of the coliseum’s first public event, the Saturday season home opener for the Charlotte Checkers against the Manitoba Moose.
Prior to 2005, the Checkers called the coliseum their home, and they decided to return this season after a decade based at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Among the changes made to accommodate the team is a new locker room, which architects have uniquely incorporated into the building’s adjacent Red Line Club restaurant. A door to the rink was cut directly into the restaurant wall, creating a direct path from the Checkers locker room to the ice. That means players will now walk within inches of club diners (via a momentarily cordoned off path) as they go to and from their games.
Perhaps the most noticeable change for fans is the replacement of the iconic honey-colored wooden seats with bigger, more comfortable plastic seats. Most of the 9,200 seats removed were dismantled for recycled parts, but about 800 were sold as souvenirs to fans in September.
Unchanged is the site’s original signature dome roof made of tin, which has never needed replacement in its 60-year history. At the time of the coliseum’s opening, the venue laid claim to the title for the world’s largest unsupported steel dome.
The coliseum is budgeted to host about 100 events in fiscal year 2016, including 38 Checkers home games.
Coliseum to host public skating event
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and Charlotte Checkers will host a public skate at Bojangles’ Coliseum on Tuesday, Nov. 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. Open skates at the venue have been a long-time tradition over the course of its 60-year history and the return of the Checkers marks the comeback of public opportunities to hit the ice here.
The event is one of the first opportunities the community will have to experience the $16 million renovation at the historic landmark. A limited number of skates will be available for rental for $5 per person and those with their own skates will be able to skate free of charge.