RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The fan experience at PNC Arena could see a major overhaul. While talks about an upgrade to the arena originally starting in 2014, they were put on pause at the onset of the pandemic.
Now, Philip Isley, chair of the Centennial Authority, PNC Arena’s governing body, is eager to finally get plans off the ground.
“I think it’s very exciting. We have a bold vision,” said Isley.
Ratio Design, hired to lead the visioning process, presented a menu of potential options for the renovation for the authority’s board members.
“We’re wanting to make sure that everyone has an exciting experience and can really come to this arena with an expectation and leave with that expectation realized,” said Bill Browne of Ratio Design.
Ratio’s current vision would make upgrades at every seating level.
The firm suggested switching constructing more permanent food or drink stands and a view bar.
Other ideas include enhancing the lobby entrances to better filter crowds, creating more social spaces and building an outdoor event space. While suites in the arena don’t need a big changes, Ratio suggested updating some of the finishes.
“You have to make sure that you’re catering to each of the sports or activities and making sure the flexibility of the facility can move with each of those,” Browne explained.
Browne’s team brought forward plans to modernize and consolidate staff offices as well.
The plan is to make improvements to the exterior of the arena too. Ratio has proposed creating a new major entrance and exit point into the arena off Edwards Mill Road through Wake Park Boulevard. There is also a possibility of enhancing the plaza between Carter-Finley Stadium and the arena.
In the long term, the authority has expressed developing the area surrounding the arena to keep people in the area. That plan could include hotels, restaurants, retail and housing.
In the shorter term, the next step is for the Centennial Authority to decide what upgrades to go with and finalize a schematic design. Modernizing the inside of the facility could take up to five years but work could start as soon as next year. The arena’s schedule makes it challenging to go any faster.
“As the Hurricanes continue to win the playoffs, you’re not starting until June and there’s basketball and hockey starting back in October. So, you have a really constricted time frame,” said Isley.
In 2019, there was a $200 million budget approved to make improvements to the campus but inflation has increased that cost. The authority will need to ask the City of Raleigh and Wake County for additional funding contributions.
“Our funding partners will tell us how much we can spend so we’ll have to make our case to them why what we want to spend is a valuable investment of taxpayer dollars,” said Isley.
He hopes any upgrade will take the arena well into the future.
“Hopefully the fans, even the ones who are not here yet, the ones who are yet to be born will be using this when they’re 25 years old,” he said.