Charlotte Hornets

NBA: Upgrade arena, then maybe All-Star Game will come

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Monday Charlotte could host a future All-Star Game.

First, he said, the city must upgrade Time Warner Cable Arena, which needs $41.9 million of work, according to a list of needs compiled by the Charlotte Bobcats and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

“I’d love to bring the All-Star Game back here,” Silver said before the Bobcats game with the Houston Rockets. “This is a wonderful community, a hotbed of basketball, not just pro but college as well.”

He added: “There are some upgrades to the building that are needed. I know those discussions are underway right now. It’s part of the understanding here that the building remain state-of-the-art. Nothing dramatic is needed. But certainly an upgrade to the scoreboard, some things with the suites and the lighting.”

The Bobcats’ 25-year arena lease calls for the city of Charlotte to keep Time Warner Cable Arena among the league’s most modern. After the first seven years, the lease requires the city to make improvements, so long as half of other NBA facilities have them.

The city-owned arena opened in the fall of 2005. Only two new NBA arenas have been built since then, in Orlando and Brooklyn, N.Y.

The team has requested money to upgrade suites, overhaul restaurants, build a new play area for children and move the ticket office, among other improvements.

The city said it will scrutinize the list of requests to see what is required under the lease agreement.

Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon said the prospect of hosting the league’s All-Star Game shouldn’t make the city spend more money than necessary.

“The city should only be guided by what it’s obligated to do by way of the agreement,” he said.

City Manager Ron Carlee said the city must study the “business case” for possibly making additional upgrades to the arena.

“What kind of opportunity will there be (for improving the arena)?” Carlee said.

The NBA has awarded the next two All-Star Games – a weekend of events in mid-February – to New York in 2015 and Toronto in 2016.

Silver said awarding the 2017 event should come in about a year. Then he reiterated his link between Charlotte’s chances and those upgrades.

“The team has time,” Silver said. “The first order of priority is making sure the building issues are dealt with.”

Drawing events like the All-Star Game, which would fill thousands of hotel rooms in and around Charlotte, was an incentive for the city to build the $260 million uptown arena in partnership with the Bobcats.

The CRVA, which oversees back-of-the-house operations at the arena, estimated the building needs $7.8 million in work over the next five years. The team estimated the arena needs an added $34 million over the next four years.

Silver’s comments, linking upgrades to a quick opportunity to host the All-Star Game, seemed to be a carrot to spend more. The All-Star Game was here in 1991 when the Charlotte Hornets played at the now-gone Charlotte Coliseum.

In response to questions about its arena upgrade list, the Bobcats released a statement last week.

“The operating agreement signed in 2003 between the City of Charlotte and Bobcats Sports & Entertainment includes a prescribed process to look at repairs and upgrades after seven years of operation. With Time Warner Cable Arena now in its ninth year, we have a mutual obligation to follow the process that was put in place over a decade ago. As stewards of this community asset, we are working with our partners toward the common goal of ensuring that our arena will continue to be the type of venue that will allow us to compete for events that will benefit the entire Charlotte community.”

The arena upgrades comes less than a year after the city agreed to spend $87.5 million on improvements at Bank of America Stadium to satisfy the NFL Carolina Panthers.

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