PNC Arena ‘dramatical revamp’ planned



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PNC Arena renovation Image: PNC Arena

Designers presented plans recently to dramatically revamp Raleigh’s (North Carolina, US) PNC Arena, reimagining the 23-year old venue with event space, upgrades for fans at all three levels and the new-look food and beverage areas.

‘wralSPORTSfan’ stated that the presentation to the 21-member Centennial Authority Board (provides oversight on all activities associated with the PNC Arena) is the most public step, thus far, in the Board’s efforts to complete a renovation that has been years in the making, is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and may hold the key to the National Hockey League’s (NHL’s) Carolina Hurricanes long-term future at the site. The Board has been considering renovations as far back as 2014.

The PNC Arena is an indoor arena located in Raleigh, North Carolina, US. The arena seats 18,680 for ice hockey and 19,722 for basketball, including 61 suites, 13 luxury boxes and 2,000 club seats. The building has three concourses and a 300-seat restaurant.

Board Vice-Chairman Kieran Shanahan said recently at the close of the meeting – “This is the time to be bold. This is the opportunity. Those who have been in the trenches for 20 years trying to get the City and the county and the State to line up, the stars appear to be lined up.”

‘wralSPORTSfan’ further stated that the PNC Arena, which opened in 1999, is home to the Hurricanes and NC State’s men’s basketball team. The venue also hosts concerts and other events. The Centennial Authority is negotiating a long-term lease with the Hurricanes, whose current lease expires in 2029, and has plans for massive development around the arena and NC State’s 57,583-capacity Carter-Finley Stadium.

Board Chairman Philip Isley said that the renovations could be completed within four to five years as construction must work around the schedules of the Hurricanes and Wolfpack (the NC State Wolfpack football team represents the North Carolina State University in the sport of American football). He has pushed his fellow Board members to move quickly and previously said that the renovation project is “the key to doing everything else we want to do. We have a plan. We have a way to implement the plan and we have a way to construct it in a timely fashion.”

The Centennial Authority owns the arena. The Gale Force Sports and Entertainment operates the venue. Designers from RATIO/HOK prepared the presentation, which includes changes to the exterior and touched on nearly every part of the building.

Said Bill Browne, President of RATIO Architects, “There’s a whole series of things we can do with this arena. Ultimately, it’ll be prioritized and budget-driven. We’ll have to make decisions like any project. But what we’ve tried to do is at least show the opportunities that exist with this building.”

Among the items presented was an expansion in the footprint of the building on the North and South side, which faces the Carter-Finley Stadium. The architects paid close attention to enhancements for ticket-buyers at all levels, including the upper bowl.

Among the potential renovations: Premium zones behind the arena level, main concourse and mezzanine, moving team offices to add club space and VIP suites, enhanced food and beverage options, including grab-and-go stations, a view bar inside the main arena where patrons can see the game, additional shops for selling gear, refreshing suites, improving the lobby, creating more space on the concourses, and adding outdoor event space.

The presentation was a look at what could be done, but did not represent what will happen in Raleigh. The Centennial Authority Board members have visited arenas across the country to get a glimpse at how other venues have been updated to improve fan experiences and generate additional revenue.

Added Isley, “Once we go through that prioritization process and we’ve developed our budget, the comprehensive budget, we’re going to have to hone that down and come up with what will probably be a four-to-five year plan to build this in the middle of the dead time between hockey and basketball. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us. I don’t think I’d be doing this job if I wasn’t optimistic we could accomplish it.”

The Wake County Commissioners and the Raleigh City Council will have to sign off on bonds to finance the improvements.

A large-scale renovation was last considered in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic squashed those plans which were expected to cost more than $200 million. Prices have only gone up since then. No dollar figures were discussed at the meeting.

Designers presented some of those earlier plans to the Board last year to give it a sense of where the project was before the pandemic. The Board then called for a revamped presentation, incorporating newer ideas.

The renovations have support from the NC State.

The NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson, who was at the meeting, stated, “Let’s get on with this project and make this arena what it can be. It’s got strong bones. It was built well. But how can we refresh it in a way that makes the modern fan – whether it’s for an NC State basketball game, a hockey game or a concert – have a world-class experience? Now’s the time to do it.”

The arena generated more than $118.5 million in gross revenues in the 2022 fiscal year, up significantly from $86 million in 2019, the last year that was uninterrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. More than $51 million revenue came from admissions, according to data provided to the Centennial Authority by Gale Force. Isley said more than 1.5 million people attended an event in the arena last year.

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