Bobcats Await Home as Crews Make Way for Charlotte Arena

Tue January 20, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Gwenyth Laird Pernie

Construction of one of the latest major U.S. sports facilities, the Charlotte Bobcat Arena, recently began in Charlotte, NC.

The 780,000-sq.-ft. (72,464 sq m) arena, situated on 9 acres (3.6 ha) of uptown Charlotte, will be home to the NBA Charlotte Bobcats and WNBA Charlotte Sting, and will serve as a venue for concerts, family-oriented shows and hockey.

Ground-breaking on the new arena took place on July 29, 2003, when Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, members of the Charlotte City Council, Charlotte Bobcats and Charlotte Sting owner Robert L. Johnson triggered a blast.

Crews are constructing the arena on a site two blocks east of the center of town, commonly called the Square. Obtaining this location required the city to purchase more than 20 parcels of property, which included service parking, three businesses and vacant buildings. The city also had to install concrete duct banks for private utilities, and it had to substantially relocate water, sewer and storm drainage.

As of October, more than 135,000 cu. yds. (103,200 cu m) of earth had been moved.

Site preparation required that one street be removed and one realigned. Blythe Construction, Charlotte, was hired for this job.

Crews completed the realignment of two blocks of Fifth Street and the removal of one and a half blocks of Brevard Street in eight and a half months. The contractor often worked on a 24-hour schedule to maintain progress in accordance with the overall construction schedule, clearing the way for the arena construction to begin.

Hunt Construction, Indianapolis, is managing the construction and hired subcontractors R.J. Leeper and Linda Lockman-Brooks, both of Charlotte.

According to William Haas, project manager of the city of Charlotte engineering department, the contract for the arena project was unique for the city in that it used the construction manager at-risk method. The company hired as the construction manager is responsible for the bidding and awarding of all subcontractors and must absorb any amounts spent over the bid estimate.

“Also unique to the project is that the arena is being built utilizing the fast track construction method,” Haas said. “This allows the designers to complete the project to a certain level, such as the grading and foundation work; the contractor can then bid this work out while the designers move on to another level of design, such as the building structure and interior.”

The construction budget, which includes all costs for designing, developing and construction, is $200 million.

Incorporating Charlotte’s Charm

The Bobcat Arena will seat 18,500 people for professional basketball games. For college and high school basketball there will be seating for at least 20,200; for hockey, 14,100 seats; for concerts, 16,700 seats with 270-degree “end stage” locations.

Barry Silberman, executive vice president of arena development, operations and entertainment, said the arena is a very distinctive project for Charlotte.

“Our goal for the arena is to capture the flavor of Charlotte,” Silberman said. “To have the arena in uptown Charlotte, only two blocks from the city center and in the middle of the city’s business and entertainment district, will be a huge boost to the revitalization of the city.”

The Charlotte Arena will feature many of the same aspects of Conseco Field House in Indianapolis.

Kansas City, KS-based Ellerbe Becket, the architectural firm that designed the Conseco field house, is leading the Charlotte arena project. The firm subcontracted Odell Associates; the Freelon Group; and Cole, Jenest and Stone –– all Charlotte-based businesses.

The designers considered several factors when planning the arena –– function, future development, impact on the area, accessibility and aesthetics.

The arena needed to be physically flexible to host sports and various types of entertainment activities. Because of the arena’s adaptive abilities, the area surrounding the facility needed to be attractive for future development.

The arena will take a page from the region’s history, using Charlotte’s urban setting of connected neighborhoods. The exterior will reflect the area’s mill history with trademark brick in the upper portions of the building’s exterior and showcasing a brick facade on all sides of the building. The interior design will include artwork by local artists and banners decorated with images of Charlotte’s present and past. The concourses will be designed to look like city streets with simulated tree canopies overhead.

Funding for the arena came from various sources all generated within the city of Charlotte, including the sale of certificates of participation (COP), the annual hotel/motel tax, the city car rental tax, the selling off of city land and contributions by local businesses. The arena and site will be solely owned by the city of Charlotte.

The project’s estimated completion date is Oct. 1, 2005.

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