Charlotte's Cricket Arena might get new name -- Bojangles' Coliseum

CHARLOTTE -- Cricket Arena appears set to get a new, Cajun-fried name: Bojangles' Coliseum.

The Charlotte-based chicken chain has negotiated a $1.25 million, 10-year sponsorship deal to put its name on the venerable silver-domed, city-owned structure on Independence Boulevard. If the agreement is approved, Bojangles' will pay $125,000 a year for naming rights. It will also sell its products at the arena and earn a commission on sales.

The Charlotte City Council will vote on the proposed name Monday. The board of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which runs the building, will vote on the deal Tuesday morning.

"The arena, with all of its names, has been a fixture on the Charlotte landscape since 1955," CRVA chief operating officer Mike Crum said Friday. "Bojangles' is a Charlotte-based, Charlotte-owned company, and we could not be more pleased with the association."

Bojangles' declined to comment on the deal before the vote. However, senior vice president of marketing Randy Poindexter noted that the company is "always looking for opportunities to raise its profile here in the Charlotte market."

The building opened in 1955 as the original Charlotte Coliseum and became Independence Arena after the then-new, now-demolished Charlotte Coliseum opened on Tyvola Road in 1988.

It has been known as Cricket Arena since 2001, when the cell phone carrier agreed to pay $150,000 a year for naming rights. When that deal expired in 2005, the building had lost its chief tenant, the Charlotte Checkers, to the new downtown arena. Cricket renewed for one year for $25,000, but opted not to continue further.

The CRVA has been looking for a new sponsor ever since. Negotiations last year with Victory Junction Gang Camp -- a Randolph County camp for children with chronic diseases founded by NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and his wife, Pattie -- did not lead to an agreement.

"Since the Checkers left, the facility has struggled to generate any significant sponsorship revenue, so Bojangles' interest in the building is a real shot in the arm financially," Crum said. That interest should also help attract other local sponsors, he said.

The 10,500-seat arena hosts about 100 events a year, fewer than in the past. Its upcoming schedule includes arena football, roller derby and concerts.

Charlotte-based Bojangles', which opened in 1977 at the corner of South Tryon Street and West Boulevard, has grown to more than 400 restaurants in 11 states, primarily in the Southeast.