SBJ/August 6-12, 2012/Facilities

Theater boxes, super suite on Bobcats' wish list

The Charlotte Bobcats are examining potential upgrades to Time Warner Cable Arena that could result in building new theater boxes and a super suite.

To this point, the Bobcats are in talks with construction firms to determine project costs and revenue generation. They have made no decisions on improvements and who would pay for them, said Fred Whitfield, the team’s president and chief operating officer.

The city of Charlotte owns the arena and must approve any renovations, Whitfield said.

The proposed upgrades are tied to a master plan Populous completed in April for the Bobcats that touched every part of the 7-year-old facility. Separately, Populous developed a plan to retrofit the arena for next month’s Democratic National Convention.
Initially, the Bobcats hoped they could piggyback on the DNC’s project by replacing existing terrace tables and royal boxes with regular seats. The team has struggled to sell those loge-style seats at the stage end since the arena opened in 2005. But as the DNC’s plan unfolded, President Obama’s Sept. 6 acceptance speech was moved from the arena to Bank of America Stadium. As a result, the retrofit was scaled back and the terrace tables and royal boxes were left untouched, Whitfield said.

Regardless, the Bobcats are moving ahead with their post-convention renovation and will prioritize individual projects in the next 30 days, said Pete Guelli, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer.

Last season, the Bobcats’ brass visited arenas in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Phoenix to see what those NBA teams had done to adjust their premium seat mix, Guelli said. The new options include theater boxes, a hot trend across the league.

Theater boxes are small clusters of two to six seats supported by a common dining area behind the seats. At US Airways Center in Phoenix, the Suns split eight traditional suites opposite stage end into 16 four-seat theater boxes. They charge $65,000 to $75,000 annually for those boxes, including tickets to all arena events plus food, beer and wine.
The original units sold out, and the Suns are converting four more suites into seven theater boxes for the coming season, said Geoff Budoff, senior director of suites.

In Chicago, United Center has two super suites that can be sold as two 80-person skyboxes for $13,250 to $19,000 a game or divided into four 40-person units for $8,250 to $12,500 a game, said Steve Schanwald, Bulls executive vice president.

The Bobcats are targeting suites directly opposite stage end for theater boxes and one super suite, Whitfield said.

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