Politics & Government

Bojangles’ Coliseum could be linked to Ovens Auditorium in multimillion dollar upgrade

A rendering of the proposed building between Ovens Auditorium and Bojangles’ Coliseum.
A rendering of the proposed building between Ovens Auditorium and Bojangles’ Coliseum. CRVA

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority wants to join Bojangles’ Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium with a new multimillion dollar building called “The Link” to create a new entrance, ticketing area and storage space.

To pay for the new building, the city and CRVA would use $18.5 million that had been set aside for a new amateur sports complex on the site. One developer interested in the sports complex withdrew from that project in 2014, leaving the city with unspent money and wanting a new plan for the east Charlotte venues.

The CRVA said the biggest complaint about the two buildings is not having enough bathrooms and concession space.

“Restrooms is the No. 1 challenge we have when hosting events like (the musical) ‘Wicked,’ ” said Tom Murray, chief executive of the CRVA. “We will have a hockey game and a concert or show at the same time, and we want to be able to manage these events.”

The new building would also have a 6,000-square-foot “hospitality room” that could be rented.

If City Council approves, a design contract would be awarded in the spring. The construction contract would be awarded in the fall, and the building could open in 2019.

The CRVA doesn’t know how much the building would cost.

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

The plan would be the latest investment in the two venues. Two years ago, council members approved $16 million to upgrade the 60-year-old Coliseum, which allowed the Charlotte Checkers hockey team to move there from uptown. The improvements included new seats, an ice-making machine and scoreboard.

The CRVA’s original plan was for an indoor amateur sports complex in the parking lot for the two venues. A lack of interest from developers put that plan on life support. The Charlotte Area Transit System has also proposed building a light-rail line along Independence Boulevard, and the Silver Line would run through the parking lot where the sports complex would have been built.

The city had set aside $25 million for the complex. The city spent $6.5 million to buy and demolish an old hotel that was adjacent to Ovens Auditorium. The land is now used for overflow parking.

A majority of council members endorsed the project Monday, but the council’s two Republicans were skeptical.

“What happens if we don’t spend the $18.5 million?” asked council member Kenny Smith.

Murray said the money could be used in other ways. But he said the two venues need help, especially with bathrooms and concessions.

“We have large capital needs in both buildings,” he said. “We are challenged to keep our customers happy. These problems needs to be fixed or we’ll lose customers.”

In other news, new city manager Marcus Jones announced that deputy city manager Ron Kimble will retire Jan. 31. Jones will replace Kimble with Sabrina Joy-Hogg, who was Jones’ deputy manager in Norfolk, Va., where Jones was manager.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs