The Charlotte Bobcats are the second bite at the apple in terms of an NBA expansion team for the
City of Charlotte. The old Charlotte Hornets enjoyed early success at the gate and were solid on
the court, but things got sour when owner George Shinn got into off the court personal problems,
combined with demands for a new publicly funded arena. Fans began to jump ship, the team
got lousy, and the Hornets bolted for New Orleans after the 2001-02 season. The NBA recognized
that this was a good basketball market, and once a new ownership group headed by Robert
Johnson was in place, a new team, the Charlotte Bobcats, entered the NBA as the league's 30th
franchise. And after one season playing at the old Charlotte Coliseum, the dream of a state of
the art arena for this region was realized when the new Charlotte Bobcats Arena opened its
doors in fall of 2005.
Getting to the venue
The arena sits right in the middle of Uptown Charlotte, two blocks east of the corner of Trade
and Tryon, whch is the epicenter of commerce and business for not only Charlotte, but all of the
Carolinas. (Here in Charlotte, they call "Uptown" what we would refer to as "Downtown"). The
entire downtown core is served by interstates - I-77 to the west and the I-477 arterial which
loops around the center city. Directional signage off the expressways will take you right to the
arena. Across the street from the arena on Trade St is the city's bus station and transportation
center, and a trolley line runs right to the west of the building, which will eventually be replaced
by a light rail system and will deposit fans just steps from the building's door. There is ample
street surface parking and numerous parking ramps immediately adjacent to the arena on the
north, east and west sides, with most lots charging $10 for event parking. Meters on the streets
are not monitored at night or on weekends.
Outside the venue
The hustle and bustle of a vibrant business district can be seen and felt everywhere, for Charlotte
is in every way a big city with a big city feel. Tall skyscrapers, banks, corporations, hotels and
condominiums dot the landscape around the arena, with more construction underway. Numerous
restaurants are within easy walking distance, and a hopping nightclub and bar district can be found
a few blocks west on Trade Street. The arena itself is a dramatic and imposing structure, with
its red brick facade, chrome silver walls and liberal use of glass accents, including a full glass
pavilion lobby at its main entrance on Trade Street. At night blue neon lighting give this area
a dramatic look. The entry plaza itself is also quite distinctive, with four huge and colorful pylons
shaped like sewing bobbins, to pay tribute to this region's textile industry. Nice landscaping and
an entertainment platform make this a pleasant gathering area. Overlooking the plaza up high
on the facade is a huge full color dot matrix video board.
What makes this arena so very special and what gives the building its character and soul is the
implementation of a comprehensive art project, which celebrates this area's heritage and history
through industry, commerce, the community and sports. It hits you the minute you walk into
the main pavilion, with a massive mosaic mural of male and female basketball players. Above
the ticket windows in the pavilion are replicas of Charlotte tourism's advertising billboards paying
homage to different regions of the Carolinas.
Then throughout the concourses one can find endless arched murals grouped into a street theme -
of the city's namesake, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg; a series of piggy banks saluting the
city as a banking center; an entire food court dedicated to the Wright Brothers' maiden flight in
Kitty Hawk, NC; a collage of posters of notable historic events; the Faces of Charlotte, the diverse
peoples that make up this community. We could go on and on but you get the picture. Add the
terrific sports memorabilia, especially along the escalator ride to the upper level, or the framed
jerseys representing state high school championship squads grouped by the two states of North
and South Carolina. The entire building is a veritable museum to the Carolinas, and truly
unique among its peer venues!
Both upper and lower concourses are well lit, concrete floors or terrazzo tile, wide and easy to
navigate, and in addition to the murals are colorful concession canopies, food courts, lounge areas
and also a neat gathering area in the upper deck called "Rock to the Rooftop" with bar, concessions,
interactive games and a full view of the seating bowl.
The lower level bowl sideline seats are the designated club seats, with a private lounge and
concession area at the concourse level. Courtside seat holders have access to a field level bar
and restaurant area. 54 suites ring the seating bowl. Additional supersized party suites
designed like city lofts and containing ledge seating and TV monitors at each seat are located on
the second level. Two mega sized super suites are at center court on each side, leased by the city's
two largest banks, Bank of America and Wachovia. A restaurant called the Founders Club offers an
upscale buffet before and during the game.
The seating bowl is what gives Charlotte Bobcats Arena a look and feel which is distinctive and special
among its peer venues in the NBA and NHL. The signature element here is the scoreboard, a massive,
eye popping, jaw dropping four sided affair with huge and crystal clear HDTV video screens.
Crowning the scoreboard is a three dimensional true replica of Charlotte's impressive skyline, and
the panel behind the buildings light up with various designs to simulate daylight, nighttime, fireworks
among other effects. It is a show in itself! Once you've seen this scoreboard, every other one will
remind you of your old Atari. Ringing the suite level is a 360 degree LED ribbon board, and a
companion dot matrix board above the "Rock to the Rooftop" bar. There is an upper and lower
seating deck, a full level of suites and a club level with the super suites and viewing ledges from the
club restaurant. Configured for basketball (although the arena can be retrofiited for ice hockey),
the arena bowl provides an intimate setting for hoops.
Nothing nothing nothing... being a second year expansion team the franchise has yet to achieve
titles or retire any of its marquee players. Gratefully, the organization has resisted the temptation
to hang stupid banners like "Fans #1" or, like its Hornets predecessors, an "Attendance Champion".
Here again is where this venue truly shines. No detail was spared in providing a gastronomic
experience which will satisfy just about any taste. One of the signature items is none other than
a milkshake. That's right, the milkshakes here are to die for! You have to go the upper level
creamery stand to find them, but the stand is designed like an old time soda fountain, and the shakes
are made with real cream, crowned with whipped cream and a splash of caramel or fudge.
OK, where to from here... how about the chicken or beef brisket quesadillas, banana cheesecake
and margueritas at the mexican stand; not just french fries, but parmesan gariic fries, Maryland crab
fries and cheese fries; or the Carolina fried pickles; the shrimp po boys; or a stacked chicken salad
which comes in a long cylindrical container - shake it and the dressing mixes with the salad itself.
Brick oven fired pizza; panini sandwiches; and this massive Nathan's "Charlotte Foot Long", topped
with southern style cole slaw. There is much much more here. Good luck trying to find your simple
ballpark dreck hot dog and tray of nachos... everything here is served with style, flair and a chef's
Slam dunks, assists, fouls...
Slam dunk... to the coolest, bestest, neatest HDTV scoreboard anywhere in sports. The bar keeps
getting raised among the franchises for new technological breakthroughs. For now Charlotte holds the
title, case closed!
Assist... Out of town scores. They are only shown sporadically in the seating bowl itself, but cool
high tech scrolling ticker boards are interspersed throughout all the arena's concourses and
lounges, displaying NBA, NHL and NCAA scores in real time. (Yes those NCAA scores include
the small conferences, so we got to know instantly that both our MAAC teams, Canisius and Niagara
went down to defeat on this night).
Foul...The USRT Karma always seems to struggle in the City of Charlotte, and tonight was no
exception as the Bobcats fell behind early to the visiting Orlando Magic and lost 104-93, with
Jake Voskuhl putting in a Jason Kapono-like, 5 point-5 foul performance. Add this to our Bobcats
loss at the Coliseum a year ago, a Panthers loss during their dreadful 1-15 season, and the
Hornets VICTORY over Peter's beloved New York Knicks. We don't do too well here, do we?!
Foul... Perhaps it's a hangover from the George Shinn era, but fans here haven't totally embraced
their new NBA team. Sellouts are not the norm, and the "wow factor" of a new venue has still meant
yawning gaps of empty seats on some game nights, though things are improving. Nothing that a
winning program won't cure, but for now we would like to light a fire under the hoops fans of the
Carolinas to support their team!
Slam dunk... and SPECIAL THANKS to the Charlotte Bobcats management who made our visit
to their venue a truly extraordinary one. Arena Chief Operating Officer BARRY SILBERMAN and
Public Relations Director JAMIE BANKS took us on an extensive VIP tour of the building. Media
Relations Manager TALYSE KROLEWICZ arranged for press credentials, and Head Chef JIM
ABBEY took us on a culinary tour of the arena where we got to sample all the great food. Thanks
to all of you and we are proud to induct you into the Ultimate Sports Road Trip Hall of Fame.
Assist... "Brush with Greatness"... dining at the next table in the Founders Club was none other
than Mike Hulbert, member of the PGA Pro Tour and native of Peter's home town of Horseheads,
NY. Mike was attending the game as a fan of his Orlando Magic and exchanged a few words
Slam dunk.. Rock to the Rooftop is open after games, with full bar service and concessions and
interactive games open for business, as well as a DJ and dance floor set up. We visited after the
game, and the place was hopping with music, dancing and a younger crowd having a great time.
Slam dunk... to the game day staff. This is our third NBA game in Charlotte (Hornets '01, Bobcats
'04) and we were always impressed with the friendly and laid back ushers, ticket takers and
security staff here. Always polite, always aiming to please, thanking fans for their patronage as
they exit the arena. This is how it should be done! Take a lesson... LA Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies
and especially the miserable sphincter police at NJ Nets games!
Assist... On one showcase display in the main lobby are the names of every city and town in
the Carolinas beveled onto the glass. Yet another nice local touch!
Locating another NBA franchise here in Charlotte was clearly the right thing to do - this is a
storied region when it comes to college and professional basketball, and the Bobcats have
fulfilled a longtime dream by getting a state of the art venue located right in the heart of all
the action. Charlotte Bobcats Arena does not disappoint; instead it dazzles the senses with
dramatic architecture, with superior technological enhancements, superb fan amenities, a
commitment to its civic and athletic heritage and an overall total customer experience which
will have one coming again and again. Is this the best venue in the NBA? Certainly some of the
other new venues can attempt to make that argument, and the vaunted Conseco Fieldhouse of
Indianapolis has earned our top distinction in the past. But like Conseco - even an out of town
visitor can appreciate the local touches which provide a trip down memory lane for the local folks.
Make no mistake - Charlotte Bobcats Arena can easily stake a claim as one of THE elite venues
not only in basketball, but among all four major sports. Surely architects for other venues yet to
follow will be coming here to emulate its distinctive design elements.
Concessions/team store: 9
Ushers/Game Day Staff: 9
Fan support/enthusiasm: 4
Location and neighborhood : 7
Banners/retired numbers/History: 5
Event presentation: 5.5
Concourses/Fan Comfort: 8
Bonus points: 3 for the entry plaza and bobbins, 2 for the milkshakes, and 4
for the team's "red carpet factor" for the USRT
TOTAL SCORE: 74.5