Charlotte Hornets home rejig greenlighted


Charlotte City Council approves budget for renovation of Spectrum Center Image: Spectrum Center

The Charlotte City Council approved a deal on June 13th that would renovate the Spectrum Center, build a practice facility for the National Basketball Association (NBA) team Charlotte Hornets and extend the NBA team’s lease in the ‘Queen City’ (read Charlotte, US).

Construction is expected to begin this Summer on the renovations and practice facility. Work could take four years.

‘The Charlotte Observer’ stated that in the deal, $215 million would come from the City’s tourism funds and go toward the renovation of the Spectrum Center. The remaining $60 million for the NBA team’s practice facility would come from whoever receives naming rights for the creation of a sports and entertainment district around the Spectrum Center. The deal passed by a 10-1 vote.

The Spectrum Center is an indoor arena located in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina (US). It is owned by the City of Charlotte and operated by its main tenant, the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. The arena seats 19,077 for NBA games but can be expanded to 20,200 for the college basketball games.

The Charlotte Hornets are an American professional basketball team based in Charlotte, North Carolina (US). The Hornets compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the league’s Eastern Conference Southeast Division, and play their home games at the Spectrum Center.

The estimated base price of $173 million in renovations includes a performance enhancement center, which City officials say most NBA teams have already. However, the final suggested price tag is around $245 million. The new practice center would include expanded locker rooms and healthcare spaces. Outside of the center, planners say the area around it could be transformed into an entertainment district. Some possible examples given as case studies include Victory Park in Dallas and Milwaukee’s Deer District.

‘The Charlotte Observer’ quoted Councilwoman Victoria Watlington as stating, “This, for me, is the right thing to do for our City. We value the Hornets.”

Councilman Ed Driggs agreed – “If (the Hornets) don’t negotiate with us, they negotiate with someone else.”

Braxton Winston, who voted against it, called the contract a “bad deal”, citing future concerns and a poorly executed existing lease.

Pierre Bader, owner of the Sonoma Restaurant Group, was in support of the deal, calling it “Money well spent. It will change the tone of the Epicentre. You will not be disappointed in your decision for years to come.”

Resident Grace Fendrick was fiercely opposed to the City subsidizing the arena and said the idea that a practice facility would bring economic prosperity to Charlotte is “laughable”.

Charles Held agreed and also spoke in opposition to the proposal – “I think people are more worried about getting shot outside of the stadium than the shots going on inside of the stadium.”

Several Council members commented on the lack of transparency in the deal. June 13th was the public’s only chance to comment on the deal.

Said Councilman Malcolm Graham, who voted for the proposal, “The community should’ve been involved at the takeoff, not the landing.”

Under the proposed deal, the City of Charlotte would extend its lease with the Charlotte Hornets to 2045. The existing lease is set to expire in 2030. The Hornets would begin paying $2 million per year in rent in 2030 and $1.1 million in capital investments beginning in 2024.

In response to the Council’s vote on June 13th, the Charlotte Hornets issued a statement thanking the City – “We look forward to continuing to serve as stewards of Spectrum Center to make it the premier destination for sports and entertainment in the Carolinas.”

Hornets Sports & Entertainment said in a prepared statement, “We are thrilled to have extended our lease agreement and ensure that the Spectrum Center and Uptown Charlotte will remain the home of the Charlotte Hornets for an additional 15 years through 2045.”


Early renderings show the new practice facility in a high-rise building. It would include two full basketball courts, expanded locker room space and a health care space. Renderings show the practice facility replacing the existing Charlotte Transportation Center, moving the bus facility underground. These renderings are not set in stone.

The rest of the tower will be filled with parking and undetermined development on the top floors. There will be a temporary bus station built during the several years of construction on the transit and practice facility building, documents presented to the Economic Development Committee show. Plan B, according to the original presentation, is to build the practice facility in the existing gravel lot beside the stadium at Caldwell and Trade streets.

The money for renovations will come from the City’s tourism dollars – rental car sales tax or hotel occupancy rate tax, for example – and won’t affect the City’s general fund budget, according to City of Charlotte Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Teresa Smith.

Renovations to the Spectrum Center would include:

  • Entryways;
  • Bathrooms;
  • Escalators;
  • Elevators;
  • New heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems;
  • Plumbing repairs; and
  • Roof repairs.

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