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Council Members Take A Look At Bojangles' Coliseum Renovations

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Gwendolyn Glenn/WFAE

The first phase of the Bojangles’ Coliseum’s facelift will be completed in time for the Charlotte Checkers’ November 7 opening game. The cost of the project is estimated at more than $50 million. That will be spent over the next 25 years.

Thursday, City Council members took a tour of the coliseum to get a look at the first $9 million investment in the project.

Coliseum general manager George Hite started the tour at the expanded concession stands, as workers banged and drilled away.

He pointed out new LED lighting and bright red paint on stairwells to make the building more visible from outside. There will be a new sound system and score board, handrails installed for the first time along aisles and shiny, brass seat row numbers that had been painted over are visible once again.

“They don’t make buildings like this anymore,” Hite said.

Council members were shown the new wider and more comfortable red seats that replaced the original wood ones. They traipsed through locker and training rooms under construction and a restaurant where some fans will get to mingle with the team for a minute.

“As the Checkers come out of this door here, they’re going to walk through the restaurant and the dining club, straight to their bench and out on the ice, so for fans in there at that time, they’re going to really be up close and personal with the guys,” Hite said.

Councilman Michael Barnes thinks the renovations are great. But says it’s not all about the 38 hockey games that will be played here annually for the next 10 years at least. It’s also about preserving a 60 year old facility that some don’t want to see torn down. 

“There’s a lot of resistance from the community and elected officials who grew up in Charlotte and remember when Elvis played there and the significance of the arena for Charlotte and this part of the country,” Barnes said. “It was the largest domed arena in the U.S. east of the Mississippi for a time.”

But in recent years, the coliseum has been underused. Barnes says the council discussed tearing it down and building a new facility, which might have been less costly, but again, he says residents balked.

Last year, city officials worked on a deal with Good Sports to add an amateur sports complex with a hotel on the site to attract more business but Barnes says those plans have stalled.

“Good Sports is technically not moving now and we are assessing that with other partners. Our efforts for amateur sports at Bojangles are continuing,” he said.  

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Credit Gwendolyn Glenn/WFAE
Charlotte City Councilman Ed Driggs takes a tour of construction work at Bojangles' Coliseum and inspects new, wider seats.

Council member Vi Lyles, remembers attending concerts and basketball games at the coliseum when she was a student at Queens College. She says the proposed expansions and renovations are a first step in revitalizing the city’s east side.

“We got to figure out how to make the building part of Monroe Road and make the entire corridor see opportunities for entertainment, retail so we’ve got work to do,” Lyles said.

That work includes renovations set for next year at Ovens Auditorium next door to attract events and spur economic activity in the area. Councilman John Autry says the return of the Checkers to Bojangles’ is a step in that direction.

“I’ve got business owners in the area very excited to have hockey crowds and then come to their establishments for food and drinks or whatever,” Autry said. “That will reverberate on the community and surrounding communities.”

The $7 million phase two of Bojangles’ facelift, a less visible project of heating and air conditioning system replacements, is set for next year.