Charlotte Checkers

Checkers to return to Bojangles if city spends extra $4M

The Charlotte Checkers have reached a tentative agreement with the Charlotte Regional Visitors’ Authority to return to Bojangles’ Coliseum beginning with the 2015-16 season, but the deal hinges on the City Council approving $16 million in renovations.

The city has long planned to spend $12 million renovating Bojangles’ Coliseum, but proposed spending an additional $4 million specifically for the Checkers. The agreement would be the first time the public has subsidized the minor-league hockey team.

The city has recently agreed to subsidize a new ballpark for the Charlotte Knights ($8 million); stadium improvements for the Carolina Panthers ($87.5 million) and renovations to the home of the Charlotte Hornets ($33.5 million).

As in the cases of the other sports deals, the Bojangles’ Coliseum money would come from the city’s hospitality and tourism taxes, which are levied on prepared food and beverages and hotel and motel rooms.

Charlotte Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble told the City Council on Monday that the Hornets are OK with the Checkers leaving Time Warner Cable Arena because it will free up 38 dates for other events. The Checkers have played at Time Warner Cable Arena since 2005. The team has one year left on its agreement with the Hornets to play there. .

The City Council is set to vote on the agreement Dec. 8. The Checkers would play at the coliseum for 10 years under the tentative agreement. It’s unclear what would happen if the City Council votes against spending the $16 million, or if it votes against the $4 million specifically for the hockey team.

“Our deal is contingent upon this getting done,” said Tom Murray, chief executive of the CRVA. “(The Checkers) will have to figure out what that will be next.”

The city and CRVA said the deal will help eliminate operating losses at Bojangles’ Coliseum and its neighbor, Ovens Auditorium. The CRVA said those two buildings lose $500,000 annually. Moving the hockey team to the arena – and collecting rent and parking revenue – should put the coliseum in the black, Kimble said.

The Checkers would also spend $1.1 million on coliseum improvements, according to the tentative agreement.

The $4 million set aside specifically for the hockey team includes $450,000 for locker room improvements; $100,000 for VIP seating upgrades; $700,000 for a new scoreboard; $375,000 for new LED signage inside the arena; and $600,000 for lighting upgrades.

Some of the previously agreed-upon budget improvements that are part of the $12 million include $1.45 million for new seats; $1 million for electrical systems; and $750,000 for concessions upgrades.

“We are extremely excited about the possibility of returning to our roots at Bojangles’ Coliseum,” said Tera Black, the Checkers’ chief operating officer. “We believe the move would be greatly beneficial for our organization, our fans and the city of Charlotte.”

Council member Kenny Smith asked whether the agreement would require the city to eventually make additional upgrades to the coliseum.

The city’s agreement with the Hornets requires that Time Warner Cable Arena be among the NBA’s most modern. Some of the $33.5 million in improvements agreed to earlier this year were driven by that agreement, which was signed in 2003 before the arena was built.

“Can they come to us and say, ‘You aren’t up to standards?’ ” Smith asked of the Checkers.

Murray, of the CRVA, said he didn’t think that minor-league hockey would require additional spending.

The Checkers’ history at Bojangles’ Coliseum dates to Charlotte’s first professional hockey game in 1956. The team occupied the facility at various points between then and 2005. Seth Lasko contributed.