May 28, 2022

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Sports Really Satisfies

PNC Arena upgrades: Arena authority votes to move forward

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PNC Arena is empty and unable to host events Thursday, April 2, 2020 as social distancing and stay at home orders are in effect during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Three days after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman underlined the importance of upgrades in and around PNC Arena to both the Carolina Hurricanes and the league, the Centennial Authority voted unanimously in a special board meeting Thursday to extend and expand existing relationships with consultants on both fronts, restarting a long-stalled process.

“We have an opportunity to take this facility in a completely different direction,” chairman Philip Isley told Centennial Authority members Thursday.

The authority, the government-appointed board that oversees the arena on behalf of Raleigh, Wake County and the state, will ask HOK and Ratio to update the arena enhancement plan prepared in 2019 for current arena trends and construction costs and prepare a menu of possible upgrades at various cost levels for the city and county to approve at some point next year. Three years ago, the authority was looking at a $200 million package of upgrades; that price will certainly be higher now.

Meanwhile, CAA Icon, which advised the authority on negotiations over last year’s arena lease extension with Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, will be further employed to develop a master plan for development inside and outside the arena, a project Dundon has declared his intention to pursue.

“Either would have been fine,” Isley told The News & Observer afterward. “Having both is great because we now can say we’re moving forward on both the enhancements and whatever the vision will be out there. I’m pleased we’re moving forward. We’ve certainly been given marching orders from the city and county and these enhancements need to happen. They need to see something sooner rather than later.”

Isley opened the meeting by noting that he and authority executive director Jeff Merritt had been recently advised by the city and county that there was no interest in pursuing a downtown Raleigh arena and that it was time to bring an improvement plan forward for the 23-year-old arena.

That, combined with Bettman’s pointed remarks to a select group of authority members before Game 1 of the Hurricanes’ first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins, jump-started the process and provoked Thursday’s meeting.

Dundon and the Hurricanes extended the team’s lease at PNC through 2029 during the pandemic, an interim arrangement designed to buy time to renovate the arena and allow Dundon to begin the process of building around it. Whatever package of enhancements the authority, city and county choose will be predicated on a longer-term lease, and the team’s interest in that will be predicated on Dundon’s ability to develop the land.

“Just glad to see that they have plans to move forward with both enhancements of the arena and development of the property,” Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell said in a text message to The N&O.

This story was originally published May 5, 2022 2:43 PM.

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock joined The News & Observer in 2000 and has covered six Final Fours, the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He is the current president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, was the 2020 winner of the National Headliner Award as the country’s top sports columnist and has twice been named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.