Community leaders and city officials gathered Wednesday at Bojangles’ Coliseum to get their first glimpse of Phase One of the historic venue’s ongoing $16 million renovation.
Built in 1955, the site was once among the South’s largest entertainment venues, attracting acts from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones.
Little was done to improve its appearance over those 60 years, until city leaders decided to invest enough money for a complete makeover this year. Phase One has included new seats, scoreboard, ribbon boards, sound system and the renovation of a full service dinner club called Red Line.
City Council member Vi Lyles was among the attendees at the event, and she cited the work as an example of the city’s efforts to revitalize the east side of Charlotte. Her hope is that the investment will prove to be a catalyst for more development in the area.
“What we have here is a sign that others will recognize as our commitment to this part of Charlotte. It’s not just a good place to visit, but it’s a good place to work, and it shows this area is a good place to live,” said Lyles, who recalled attending shows at the coliseum as a college student.
“I was a teen and I saw the Fifth Dimension and the opening act was Earth, Wind & Fire. Imagine that.”
More upgrades will be made in the summer of 2016, though they will be less noticeable improvements to storm drainage, and the electrical and mechanical systems.
A ribbon cutting was staged Wednesday in advance of the venue’s first public event, the Saturday Nov. 7 season home opener for the Charlotte Checkers against the Manitoba Moose.
Prior to 2005, the Checkers called the coliseum their home, and they have decided this season to return to the site as their official headquarters. They were most recently calling Time Warner Cable Arena their home.
Among the changes made to accommodate the team are new locker rooms, which have been strategically incorporated into the make up of the Red Line Club. Players exiting the locker rooms will now walk through the restaurant on the way to and from to the ice (via a momentarily cordoned off walkway.)
The coliseum, which is managed by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, was at one point among the most prominent entertainment venues in the South, attracting acts ranging from Elvis to James Brown to crusades by evangelist Billy Graham.
The most noticeable change for fans will be the replacement of the iconic wooden seats at the facility with bigger, plastic seats. Most of the 9,200 seats removed were dismantled for recycled parts, but about 800 were sold as souvenirs to fans in September.
They were replaced with 8,600 plastic seats. The decrease in the total number of seats is due to the increased width of the new, more comfortable plastic seats.
Unchanged is the site’s original signature dome roof made of tin, which has never needed replacement in its 60-year history. At the time of the coliseum’s opening, the venue laid claim to the title for the world’s largest unsupported steel dome.
The venue is budgeted to host approximately 100 events in fiscal year 2016, including 38 Charlotte Checkers home games.