SBJ/February 23 - 29, 2004/Facilities

Levy, Compass want concessions deal at Charlotte’s new arena

Levy Restaurants and Compass Group are negotiating with Charlotte's coliseum authority and the Charlotte Bobcats to buy the rights for food and beverage concessions at the new NBA arena opening in 2005 in Charlotte.

The authority has its own concession company, Leisure Operations, that manages the food operation at the Charlotte Coliseum, Cricket Arena, Ovens Auditorium and the Charlotte Convention Center.

"I think over the next couple of weeks we will either get things accomplished or not," said Barry Silberman, the Bobcats' executive vice president of arena development, operations and entertainment. "But so far, so good with the context of our conversations. They've been all positive and headed in the right direction.

"I don't know the mechanism or exactly how it would be worked out, but the city [authority] does have those rights. It's part of what the city and NBA negotiated before we got here. It would involve those rights being transferred to this other organization."

Compass is based in London and has its North American headquarters in Charlotte. The firm owns 49 percent of Chicago-based Levy, which has concession and/or premium dining contracts at 13 NBA arenas, including Memphis' FedEx Forum, which opens this fall.

Mike Crum, the authority's managing director, did not return phone calls for comment. Levy owner Larry Levy declined to comment on the issue.

Industry sources familiar with the authority's agreement with the team said Levy and Compass would pay the authority $18 million to acquire the concession rights and the building's utility and support services. They said the sum equals what the city group originally contributed to the $200 million arena project.

Levy/Compass would assume the rental terms of the previous agreement. The business partners would pay the Bobcats 48 percent of the gross sales from regular food concessions and 17 percent from premium dining.

Sources said the deal could ultimately lead to a significant sponsorship package for Compass.

"At this point, anything is a possibility, because we're out there looking for great sponsors and people to become affiliated with us in other ways inside the building," said Silberman.

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