Charlotte vote on money for Hornets, Spectrum Center

Charlotte City Council is set to vote Monday night on a $275 million deal between the city and the Charlotte Hornets to extend the team’s lease, renovate the Spectrum Center and build a practice facility next door.

In the deal, $215 million for Spectrum Center renovations would come from the city’s tourism funds. The remaining $60 million for the NBA team’s practice facility would come from whoever buys naming rights for the creation of a sports and entertainment district around the Spectrum Center.

The city owns the Spectrum Center and is contractually obligated to spend $173 million on renovations to the arena, according to the city’s CFO.

The Charlotte Observer asked readers last week their thoughts on the deal. More than half of the 408 people who responded said they support the city’s involvement with the renovations and construction of the practice facility.

Of the respondents, 42% said they’d like to see more retail, restaurants and hotels in the proposed new district.

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Charlotte’s Spectrum Center is expected to undergo renovations. Here’s the timeline. Alex Cason

Spectrum Center in Charlotte

Here’s the results of the survey:

Do you support tourism tax dollars being used toward Spectrum Center renovations?

  • Yes: 63%

  • No: 29%

  • Unsure: 8%

Do you think the city should assist with building a practice facility uptown next to the Spectrum Center?

  • Yes: 56%

  • No: 36%

  • Unsure: 8%

What would you like to see prioritized in a sports/entertainment district near the Spectrum Center?

  • Walkability: 22%

  • Retail, restaurants, hotels, bars: 42%

  • The transportation hub: 14%

  • Festival street for game day: 13%

  • Housing: 9%

Background on the Charlotte Hornets deal

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. In the proposed deal, the Hornets would begin paying $2 million per year in rent in 2030 and $1.1 million in capital investments beginning in 2024.

If approved Monday, construction is expected to begin this summer on the renovations and practice facility. Work could take four years. If costs for the renovations exceed $215 million, the Hornets have agreed to pay the extra.

Several City Council members have expressed concern over the deal’s transparency. Charlotte residents have just the Monday night council meeting’s public hearing to speak their mind — and the council members are expected to vote on it the same night.

Councilwoman at-large Dimple Ajmera said community feedback should be key to all projects the city votes on.

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Current City Council member Dimple Ajmera (center) participaing in the Black Political Caucus forum. Saturday April 2, 2022. Jonathan Aguallo

“As we work to keep the Hornets in our Queen City, we must address community’s needs,” Ajmera said in a statement to the Observer.

Councilmen Ed Driggs and Tariq Bokhari shared similar concerns at last week’s city council strategy meeting.

“I wanna keep the team here,” Driggs said. “I just think we have a little more work to do to present this thing properly to the public.”

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A high-rise building that would contain a practice facility for the Charlotte Hornets stands next to the Spectrum Center in this rendering presented to city officials on Monday. Screenshot from city of Charlotte presentation

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.

The rest of the tower would be filled with parking and “to be determined” 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.

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A rendering shows the inside of a proposed a high-rise building in place of the Charlotte Transportation Center next to the Spectrum Center. The Charlotte Hornets would have a practice facility inside. Screenshot from city of Charlotte presentation.

Plan B, according to the original presentation, is to build the practice facility in the existing gravel lot beside the stadium.

The money for renovations will come from the city’s tourism dollars — money from taxes on rental cars and hotel rooms, for example — and won’t affect the city’s general fund budget, according to city of Charlotte CFO Teresa Smith.

Renovations to the Spectrum Center would include:

  • entryways

  • bathrooms

  • escalators

  • elevators

  • new HVAC systems

  • plumbing repairs

  • roof repairs

Monday night’s council meeting begins at 5 p.m. Those who would like to share feedback to Charlotte City Council can sign up at charlottenc.gov.

This story was originally published June 13, 2022 6:00 AM.

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Genna Contino covers local government for the Observer, where she works to inform and serve people living in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. She attended the University of South Carolina and grew up in Rock Hill.

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