Aug 15, 2023 - Development

PNC Arena's $300M upgrade and bigger convention center could win crucial tourism money

Fans gather outside of PNC Arena this year before a Carolina Hurricanes playoff game. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Local governments appear ready to give PNC Arena and the Raleigh Convention Center tens of millions of dollars more annually in a move that could bring major upgrades to two of Raleigh's biggest sources of tourism.

Driving the news: The Wake County Board of Commissioners received a recommendation from the county manager's office on Monday on how it should use tax money from the county and Raleigh's interlocal fund.

  • While the commissioners didn't vote on the proposals of — which would determine how the region uses its tourism tax money for the next two decades — they all expressed support for the choices.

Why it matters: The money from the interlocal fund would pave the way for major upgrades to PNC Arena and the relocation of Red Hat Amphitheater to make way for a new convention center building.

  • The Carolina Hurricanes, in turn, appear ready to sign a new long-term lease with the arena and invest in more entertainment-centered development around the arena, the News & Observer reported.

Details: The Wake County recommendation prioritizes four major projects to boost tourism.

PNC Arena upgrades

PNC Arena would receive $21.3 million annually for the next 25 years starting in 2025.

  • The move would allow the Centennial Authority, which operates PNC Arena — to take on $300 million in financing to renovate the 24-year-old stadium and develop the area around it.
  • In turn, the Canes need to sign a long-term lease there and help with the surrounding development, something owner Tom Dundon has long wanted to do.
  • A component of affordable housing must also be included among the developments.

Of note: The county said that it has heard from many residents concerned that the redevelopment could affect some parking lots popular with N.C. State football fans for tailgating.

  • "I have more friends than I realized who [tailgate] and contacted me over the weekend concerned about their tailgating parking spots," County Commissioner Vickie Adamson said. "But we got a long way to go, and we will not forget you."

Raleigh Convention Center expansion

The Raleigh Convention Center's long-discussed expansion would also be funded under the recommendation, with $25.6 million provided a year for 30 years.

  • The money would help move and rebuild the popular Red Hat Amphitheater so that an expanded wing of the convention center could go in its place.
  • The project would leverage $387 million in debt capacity to complete the project, and it would start in 2025.

Cary Indoor Sports Facility

Cary's proposed indoor sports facility would get $5.4 million annually for 25 years, and allow it to take on $75 million in debt to build the indoor facility, 12 indoor basketball courts, multipurpose event space, a walking track and gym.

Downtown Raleigh hotel project

The city and county also want to use money as a way to attract a developer to partner on a major hotel on Fayetteville Street to support the convention center.

  • The city is currently in negotiations with developers over building a 400-plus room hotel on a parking lot in front of Martin Marietta Center for Performing Arts.
  • Under the recommended plan, that project would get $6 million annually for 20 years and allow up to $75 million in debt to help build it.
  • The hope is for construction to start in 2026.

Be smart: The interlocal fund comes from taxes on hotels and food and beverages in Raleigh and Wake County.

  • The money from the tax can only be used to support projects that would increase tourism in the county — specifically for the arts, cultural activities, sports and the convention center.
  • Both the Raleigh City Council and Wake County Board of Commissioners must vote on how the funds are distributed.

What's next: The recommendations for how to spend money from the interlocal fund will be voted on by the Raleigh City Council Tuesday night.

  • The county commissioners would then vote on the recommendations on Aug. 21.
  • The city and county could then adopt them officially at a meeting in September.
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