The Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, in large part due to owner George Shinn’s alienation of many fans. The NBA returned to Charlotte two years later in the form of the Charlotte Bobcats, for whom Spectrum Center was built. Originally intended to be built in 2001, a bond referendum to fund the venue was voted down due to controversy over Mayor Pat McCrory’s veto of a living wage ordinance – by 2004, city leaders figured out a way to build the arena without voter approval, and TWCA was born. Now home to the renamed Charlotte Hornets (as of 2014, thanks to the New Orleans Hornets becoming the Pelicans), the arena also hosts concerts, circuses, and other events, including occasional NCAA basketball tournaments and the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
A pro venue, TWCA offers a wide variety of food and beverage options, including a beer garden on the upper level and a full bar downstairs. Prices are on the high side compared to a college or minor league arena; for example, hot dogs are $6 and up ($7.50 topped with sauerkraut or blue cheese slaw, $9 for smoked sausage). The arena also offers burgers starting at $6.50, up to $10 for veggie or $12 for mushroom & Swiss. Burger options don't stop there, however; TWCA also offers the MOST EXPENSIVE item you will EVER see at an arena - the 8-pound, 14-patty, seventy-five dollar (yes, $75) Hugo's Boss Burger, one of those man versus food-type items you win a shirt for if you finish. Not that anything else can top that, of course, but if you lack the fortitude to tackle 'the Boss,' you can find sandwiches such as brisket, barbecue pork, or turkey for $12 each, or the same amount will net you barbecue pork nachos. Other offerings include Papa John's pizza or Bojangles' Chicken Supremes for $8, as well as a range of items from McAllister's Deli (loaded Spuds for $8, salads for $10, and sandwiches for $12). You can also get candy, pretzels, nachos, popcorn, peanuts, French fries, onion rings, cinnamon rolls, funnel cakes or funnel fries, soft serve ice cream, and Dippin' Dots for $3.50 to $8.50. Hot cocoa and coffee are $4, while water and soda are $4.50 and up. Beer and like beverages start at $7.75; milkshakes and root beer floats can be had for $6. TWCA also offers kids' meals (including a healthy version) for $6.50.
The Charlotte Hornets are a mediocre NBA team that has never won more than 2/3 of its games in a season, with a lifetime record well under five hundred. They fared a lot worse as the Bobcats, so it makes perfect sense they decided to change their name back - MJ is probably hoping to recapture some of the old karma. Built about 10 years ago while they were still the Bobcats, Spectrum Center hasn't done much for the franchise; while it is a decent venue with a beautiful, spacious lobby, a wide variety of concessions, even a full-size team store in the basement, there isn't much happening on the court. The team has lost almost two-thirds of its games since TWCA opened, and has never won a playoff game in that time. The venue is rarely more than half-full, even in the club seats where businesses often hand out free tickets to employees. It is hard to feel excitement in an arena where the home team rarely wins and so many seats are empty.
Spectrum Center is located in uptown Charlotte, so of course there is plenty to do before or after the game - within a few hundred feet you will find Burger King, a Chinese restaurant, a Hyatt Hotel bar, and a pub called Fitzgerald's that offers classic bar food as well as Irish fare; further away, of course, there are plenty of other options. However, the area right around the arena seems a little run down, for example, some of the parking lots are horribly paved (although there is some construction going on so that may improve soon). The immediate vicinity also feels a bit deserted and lacks a ton of street lights, so for night games you may not feel entirely safe - stick with the crowds, though, and you will be just fine.
Not only is the arena half-empty (except maybe for marquee games), but most of the fans aren't really into it; there isn't a lot of cheering, and very few of them wear Hornets gear. In fact, people aren't even buying the gear, which never happens - even at the worst stadiums and arenas, fans are willing to shell out cash just for a souvenir. Here, the team store is completely desolate, and the satellite stands have barely any customers, either. There are also very few scalpers outside, which further demonstrates the low level of interest.
TWCA is right next to the bus and light rail stations, so that's an easy way to get there. However, there is plenty of parking if you prefer to drive, and you shouldn't have to pay more than $5 or $6 - there are lots on one side that charge $10, but those actually seem less secure and less well-maintained. Since it is downtown, there is a little bit of traffic, but not a lot considering, and several major freeways nearby so it is easy to get in and out. Inside the arena there are plenty of bathrooms, but the lines are sometimes a bit long because there aren't enough stations - the men's bathrooms only have two stalls and two urinals apiece.
The Hornets offer "dynamic pricing," which sounds cool but really means that for certain games you will pay 4-5 times as much for the same seat as for other games - as little as $16 in the upper deck for most games, but up to $75 or $80 minimum for marquee match-ups. There are 21 different price points depending on seat location, so you could easily pay several hundred or more for lower level seats on specific dates. Concession prices are on the high side, but parking is dirt cheap, so all in all, it might not be a bad way to see a basketball game - as far as NBA games go, this is probably as good as it gets, in terms of cost.
The first point is given for the beautiful interior - designed around the concept of streets and galleries, it is easy to move around, and filled with artwork and other décor, including the Hornets-themed prints hanging from the ceilings, the sculptures and carvings outside, and the wall-sized tile mural in the lobby.
The second point is for the scoreboard that hangs over the center of the court - crowned by a backlit, 3-dimensional cityscape, the apparatus is unique among video displays; each side proudly displays different buildings that can be found in Charlotte. The arena also boasts other artwork celebrating the city and state, including maps, street signs, and similar elements.
The third point is for Hugo's Hangout, which is a play area for kids on the upper level - complete with referees attired in zebra stripes, kids can come and play hoops while their caregivers enjoy beer and basketball. There is always a line to get in, so this is obviously a popular destination come game time.
Though I was sorely tempted, I did not give a point for the History of Charlotte Basketball display that takes up an entire wall inside the arena. While an admirable exhibit, it is located in a stairwell right next to an escalator, so it is very difficult to take it all in, unless you feel like riding up and down multiple times. There is no place you can really stand that lets you see it all; part of it can only be seen from the lower level, another part only from the club level, etc. This panorama is a prime example of great idea, poor execution. Disagree? Check out the video:
A nice venue but home to a so-so team, a visit to Spectrum Center is more for the experience than for the basketball - unless you live in the Charlotte area, this may be one to wait to see until your team plays here. If you do live near Charlotte, this could be an okay way to spend an evening if you like basketball, as long as you pick a non-marquee game when the tickets won't cost an arm and a leg.
Welcome to the home of the Charlotte Bobcats, Time Warner Cable Arena, a.k.a. "The Cable Box." Time Warner Cable Arena, opened in 2005, has been the home venue of the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL and has hosted the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament. The Cable Box also hosted WWE Wrestling, blockbuster concerts from famous acts such as The Black Eyed Peas, and U2. Most importantly to fans, it also hosted the first ever Charlotte Bobcats playoff appearance in 2010.
I got the chance to catch a game last season while in town, and I liked the stadium. It's right downtown which has really been revitalized. There are some nice restaurants and bars to hit before or after the game. The stadium itself was nice. Our seats were pretty high up but still had a great view. There was enough to keep the kids busy as well with some areas for them to play basketball. The only thing really lacking here were the fans, but that has a lot more to do with the lack of winning that has gone on there in Charlotte.
I liked the fact we could take the train into town and be dropped off basically at the stadium. It's always nice to be downtown in a major city and not have to worry about traffic, so that was a huge plus for me.
If you are a basketball fan, take in a game. I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
Professional basketball has taken on quite a few different shapes in North Carolina's Queen City. The ABA's Carolina Cougars split their time across North Carolina between 1969-74, and one of the homes for this traveling troupe was in Charlotte's Bojangles' Coliseum, then simply named Charlotte Coliseum. The team also played in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Raleigh before moving to St. Louis.
Thirteen years after the Cougars' departure, the Charlotte Hornets were born. The Hornets played in another Charlotte Coliseum -- this one off Tyvola Road, within minutes of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport -- that also hosted concerts, basketball, pay-per-view events, football and movies. Despite the on-court and attendance successes of the club, they eventually relocated to New Orleans, becoming the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans). The second Charlotte Coliseum was torn down five years after the club moved to Louisiana.
The Hornets' move helped land another team in Charlotte, as well as the new, modern home for which the previous club wished. Time Warner Cable Arena opened as Charlotte Bobcats Arena in 2005, and has made news for a number of reasons in its short existence. The Charlotte Bobcats -- though many Charlotteans have clamored for a return of the Hornets name to the franchise -- continue to build their team's history. Every legacy needs a great foundation, and this beautiful facility in uptown Charlotte certainly provides that foundation.
Built to replace the "very old" LOL, less than 20 years old, Charlotte Coliseum built in the outskirts of the city near the interstate and airport. While the old Coliseum was one of the largest arenas in the country and still in good condition, it was built at the end of the era when arenas were built in the outskirts or suburbs of a city. By the 2000's Uptown Charlotte was the place to be and across the country arenas were returning to urban downtowns. So with Bank of America Stadium anchoring the west side of downtown, TWCA now anchors the east side.
Food & Beverage:
I have never been a fan of the food choices here. There are only a few points-of-sale on each level that has even a decent variety, but overall I believe the food choices, for an arena at this level, could be better. Now, if you have a club seat ticket to either side, then you are rewarded with a few additional choices that are much better, but for the average fan, you don't get those choices. I do love the option of getting a mixed drink at the liquor bars. I believe overall prices are about in line with other major league arenas. This arena does not pass my hot dog test. They need to serve Sahlen's hot dogs like they serve across uptown at BB&T Ballpark. Also, does every arena in the Carolina's have to have a heavy dose of Bojangles'? I guess as a southern transplant, I will never understand.
The color change from orange to teal has helped, but still not the greatest or most exciting atmosphere. While the team has gotten better over the past couple of seasons, the inside still has a cold, subdued atmosphere. In the concourse, there are sections you walk through that have nothing, no vendors, no wall graphics, like it's not quite finished. Put in the empty space some portable food carts with more options to offer. As far as the action, there is more in Atlanta at Hawks games, and they are just as bad if not worse, than Charlotte. The cheerleaders are boring; I have seen high school squads with more excitement and skill. The mascot is never in the stands, just on the floor and occasionally in the concourse. I do believe the name change has helped and has sparked new excitement in the city and at the games, but more wins will help.
Time Warner Cable Arena is located in uptown Charlotte so you have a whole city of options just outside of the arena. The Epi Center is just across the street and includes restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shopping, and hotels are in walking distance in any direction. The Hyatt House is practically adjacent to the arena, but is missing direct access or even an entrance to the arena that is close to the hotel doors. Right now there is a lot of construction just outside the arena as they build the street trolly line, but that should be done soon. Yeah, parking could be better in some of the surface lots, but I would use the Blue Line and skip the parking.
Has gotten better with the improved play and the name change, but still fans don't have a ton to cheer about. The games I have been at I have seen many fans in Hornets gear, so not sure where the main writer was looking at. With Charlotte being a transplant city of new residents from mainly the north-east, you do have many times more opponent fans when a NY team, Philly, Boston or Cleveland are in town, but it's the same way across town at the Panthers games.
TWCA is right along the Charlotte metro Blue Line light rail. For fans to the south of the city, you can park for free out at 485 station and ride in and back on the Blue Line. It does not get any easier than that! With the completion of the Yellow Line street car just in front of the arena, and the north expansion of the Blue Line, soon fans from all points can park and ride to the games. If you drive, the arena is just off the I-277 loop with plenty of nearby surface lots or garage parking at the Epi Center just across the street. If you are staying the nights, there are at least 5 to 6 hotels within a block or two from the arena. Bathroom access is sometimes a problem, especially on big crowd nights during halftime.
Return on Investment:
As far as the arena, it is a great asset to Uptown and the entire city and region. While I hate to see taxpayer money wasted by destroying arenas that were just built in just the last decade or two, the old coliseum location was a bad choice, even for suburban arenas. Raleigh should have taken a lesson from Charlotte when they built the PNC Center as it too is in a "middle of nowhere" area and I can see them looking to relocate to down Raleigh in a few years. Those areas can be fine for football when you want acres of parking for tailgating, but arenas need to be downtown supporting the city core. As for the games, yes they can be pricy, but most NBA games today are pricy. Charlotte is less expansive to attend a game than in Atlanta.
The interior is well-decorated in some areas, like the main lobby, but in others you walk empty concourses with nothing. Getting around is easy and there are escalators. The center court scoreboard is really neat with the 3D Charlotte skyline. I do believe there could be more going on for kids. The mascot is not assessable enough during the game, and the cheerleaders just are plain bad, although they do appear in the main lobby pre-game to pose for pictures, or for guys to just check-out! The Founders Club private club is great area to relax, get a cocktail, and enjoy dinner. Yes, the history of Charlotte display is in a bad spot for the public to actually read and learn from.
A nice venue in a great downtown location. Too bad the Charlotte Checkers AHL hockey are leaving after 10 seasons and returning to the even older Bojangles Coliseum located away from Uptown Charlotte. Well, for 1 season, Charlotte had all 4 major sports calling Uptown home. I understand the Checkers do not draw like an NHL team does and so it makes sense for them to want a home ice in a smaller building with less seats to fill and in a building they do not have to share with another team, but I believe this will be a big mistake that will cause consequences down the road. By leaving Uptown, the Checkers are saying that they are a second rate attraction in Charlotte. At the same time AAA Baseball is filling the new BB&T Ballpark with many sell-out crowds.
210 East Trade St
Charlotte, NC 28202