Yesterday, I opened the sports section to the News & Observer and found two Chip Alexander stories concerning the Carolina Hurricanes. More to the point, they were both business stories.
I’m not a hockey fan, but I did write about the Hurricanes and PNC Arena in a N&O opinion piece in October. My argument was that with the news that team owner Peter Karmanos has put the team on the market, we should be prepared for a shakedown of local taxpayers. Given the team’s poor performance on and off the ice, it would make sense for a buyer to want to try his or her luck in a different market. The shakedown part comes when said buyer demands arena improvements as a condition of staying put.
The first of today’s stories, which was placed below the fold on the front page, concerned the declining attendance at PNC Arena thus far this season (the Canes are presently 29th in the NHL). I have some detailed thoughts on the story below, but the important takeaway for me is that Hurricanes were unusually generous with financial information in Alexander’s story, as well as telling him some of the reasons season-ticket holders have declined to renew their subscriptions.
Alexander’s second story concerned an announcement by the Centennial Authority, the quasi-public body that owns PNC Arena, that they are drawing up plans for a hoped-for makeover to the facility, which opened in 1999. While it seems unrelated to the story about the Canes’ ticket woes, there’s a long-established playbook for teams that want an improved business environment—either in the form of a new stadium or a new city: pull out the pants pockets and say, “See? I got nothing!”
If and when a buyer for the Canes starts making noise about relocating, the Centennial Authority surely wants to have plans in place for an arena makeover in order to keep its anchor tenant from flying the coop.
At any rate, Centennial seems to be moving quickly to come up with a proposal. From Alexander’s story:
[Centennial president Jeff] Merritt said a construction price for the expansion – and a funding source – still was to be determined. The design firms’ plans will be presented to authority members at the Dec. 4 meeting, Merritt said.
“Right now we haven’t funded anything other than just vision,” Merritt said. “As far as a master-plan phase, we’re months away from that.”
One initial estimate for a north-end expansion was $15 million to $20 million. Merritt said a “ballpark price” for the new concept could be presented to the authority in January.
This story was buried on page 6, seemingly unrelated to Alexander’s page 1 story. I tried giving him and his fellow Canes reporter/columnist Luke DeCock a gentle poke over Twitter but got no response:
— David Fellerath (@DavidFellerath) November 25, 2014
Some thoughts on the page 1 story after the jump. Continue reading