Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Spectrum Center 333 E Trade St Charlotte, NC 28202
Year Opened: 2005
Spectrum Center – Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets came to Charlotte as part of the NBA’s 1988 expansion along with the Miami Heat. Even as they went through the growing pains of an expansion franchise, the Hornets were an instant success at the turnstiles, ranking in the top two in attendance for their first ten years of existence.
With a nucleus of Muggsy Bogues, Kendall Gill, Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, and sharpshooting Dell Curry, all signs pointed to a bright future for the Hornets. A myriad of hurdles to the early success of the franchise ultimately led to the core being dismantled, starting a downward spiral which ended in the team’s relocation to New Orleans following the 2001-2002 season.
The NBA would return to Charlotte in 2004 with a new identity, the Charlotte Bobcats, and a promise of a new arena. Charlotte would christen what is now Spectrum Center in 2005. Since their return, the Hornets and previously the Bobcats, have seen spikes of success, but have found sustaining it a challenge.
The Hornets now have a new ownership group in place, led by former Hornets minority owner Gabe Plotkin and former Atlanta Hawks minority owner Rick Schnell. The two have voiced their concerns about some of the shortcomings of the franchise, and how they plan to address them going forward.
Food & Beverage 4
Spectrum Center offers fans a full selection of traditional stadium fare with many specialty dishes.
The star of Spectrum Center’s menu might very well be the chimichurri steak sandwich, served on a toasted ciabatta roll with tomato and arugula and topped with chimichurri and horseradish sauces, available at the club marketplace. Solid choices can also be found at Piedmont Pit, with their burnt ends and Cheerwine glazed smoked sausage. Other selections include pizza from the Charlotte founded Brixx Pizza, burgers from Uptown Grille, and Noda Cantina’s loaded nachos.
In addition, fans have a wide selection of both mass distributed beers to go with options from several local breweries – the most eye-catching for Charlotte fans possibly is the Hornet branded Stinger Ale from the Kannapolis, North Carolina-based Old Armor Beer Company. There are also several cocktail bars around the arena serving traditional mixed drinks alongside specialty cocktails.
The lone drawback seems to be a limited number of local eateries, which would add a bit of a taste of Charlotte to the experience.
On the whole, concessions at Spectrum Center give fans a large number of options of both the expected pizza, pretzels, nachos, and burgers, as well as more chef-inspired plates.
Originally constructed in 2006, Spectrum Center’s use of large, curved windows and soaring grand entry point gives the arena a contemporary feel to it. The concourses use a mix of gray and the Hornets’ teal and purple as accent colors around the arena; the seating bowl continues this theme with dark-colored seats that are offset by the purple and teal court.
A large, six screen scoreboard hangs over center court – the sideline facing, high-definition LED screens each cover over 1,000 square feet, while the baseline screens run over 550 square feet. Screens on the underbelly of the scoreboard cover over 150 square feet, and help save the necks of fans seated near the court by not making them constantly look straight up. Four large boards are also suspended in each of the arena’s corners and provide real-time game statistics, out-of-town scores, and video promotion feeds during breaks in the action.
The NBA game is built around the constant entertainment of fans – pre-game and throughout, in-game hosts for Hive TV, Jacinda and Fly Ty, along with Ohavia, make fans feel at home as they host the arena pre-game show, fill time during timeouts with contests and other fan interactions, and hype up fans before play resumes.
What seems to be lacking the most is a significant social area for fans to congregate in as they watch the game. Except for the Dr. Pepper Pavilion on the upper level of the arena, and drink rails along the outside of the club marketplace, there really are not a lot of these social gathering areas. The Hornets have recognized this, however, and have recently announced a series of upgrades to Spectrum Center in what has been branded as Re!magine.
As Spectrum Center begins renovations in line with current trends in sports entertainment, this should only enhance the game experience of an evening with the Hornets.
Spectrum Center is in Charlotte’s Uptown district, the heart of the entertainment center of downtown Charlotte. This area is ripe with bars and restaurants for several different tastes, hotels, and attractions. Within walking distance are the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the homes of the Carolina Panthers (NFL) and Charlotte Knights (AAA – MiLB), at Bank of America Stadium and Truist Field respectively. Bojangles’ Coliseum where the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) play is also just a short drive away.
Charlotte’s Uptown district is truly a gem of an area. The location of Spectrum Center does give fans what seems like endless options when it comes to making a full day of a trip downtown, finding a pregame bite to eat, or making the Hornets a part of a night on the town.
The Hornets have typically been in the lower quarter of the league in attendance. While attendance numbers do spike throughout the season, those games tend to be influenced by fans of players of visiting teams coming into town.
When it comes to Hornets fans, throughout the game they are definitely not outnumbered by the opposition, but visiting teams do seem to get more support on the road than expected. Hornets fans do get loud when prompted by a big defensive stop, a monster dunk, or the Hornets making a pivotal run, but there is a feel that the fans need to warm up a bit before they are fully engaged in the ebbs and flows of the game.
Where the organization stands today, after years of less than stellar outcomes, is a bit of a feeling that Charlotte fans are cautious about going all in on the organization. The Hornets currently rank near the bottom in NBA attendance, but have shown they will be supportive of a team when there is consistency on the floor.
Spectrum Center is centrally located in Charlotte’s Uptown district, and is relatively easy to get to from I-277, which horseshoes Uptown Charlotte. Adding to the ease of getting to Spectrum Center is Charlotte’s light rail system, Lynx, dropping fans off at the neighboring Charlotte Transportation Center.
Entry into Spectrum Center runs smoothly with limited backup. Hornet fans seem to be a bit late arriving, so there is not much of a push as doors open, but rather more of a consistent flow of fans coming through over a longer duration. Most will enter through one of two primary entrances, one along E. 5th Street and another on E. Trade Street, where fans enter into a large, three-story atrium. Entrances for club seating are also spread out around the exterior of the arena.
Once inside, fans will find the concourses are rather easy to navigate. Both upper and lower-level concourses encircle each level of seating, without disruption or challenges to getting around. The court is not visible from the concourse, however, except from the Dr. Pepper Pavilion in the upper level.
On the whole, Charlotte is a rather accessible city for those coming for a major event. Professional sporting events will always draw sizable crowds, but with downtown arenas parking is often not concentrated at the site; rather it is spread out over a larger area, which helps alleviate the headaches created by traffic congestion.
Return on Investment 4
Dynamic pricing of tickets creates a market that is relative to the demand for games. Tickets against teams of less interest from around the league can start at under $20 in the upper levels. One of the biggest hurdles when using primary sources such as Ticketmaster is that this adds a hefty service fee to the face value of the ticket; this is also the case when looking at tickets on the secondary market. Unfortunately, avoiding add-on fees is nearly impossible.
Concessions prices also tend to be a bit erratic – while main dishes tend to be well-priced, the basics of soda and popcorn do seem a bit on the far end of the pricing scale.
In a time when parking can often rival ticket prices, affordable parking is readily available directly across the street from the front entrance of Spectrum Center. If looking to avoid parking fees, Lynx offers free park and ride and round-trip fares running less than $5, which can make the cost more affordable. So when looking at prices on the whole, the Hornets offer one of the more reasonable price points in the NBA.
The concourse of Spectrum Center is a look at the history of the Hornets franchise, from the early successes of Muggsy Bogues, Dell Curry, Larry Johnson, and Alonzo Mourning through the NBA’s return to the city as the Bobcats, and their transition back to the current day Hornets.
The #13 jersey of Bobby Phills hangs in the rafters as the only number the franchise has retired – Phills passed away in an automobile accident during the 2000 season.
The concourse gives fans several fun photo ops by ways of large Dell Curry and Muggsy Bogues bobbleheads, to one of a kind Hornet-themed artwork and a life-size replica of Hugo, the Hornet mascot.
The Hornets are currently in a transitional phase with their recent change in ownership. The new owners have acknowledged the shortcomings and are entering into their ownership with a plan in place to address those issues, namely improving the game experience to draw fans to Spectrum Center, as well as the most important aspect of the fan experience, creating a championship-caliber team.
Given the circumstances surrounding the departure of the original Hornets from Charlotte, it is hard to blame the fanbase for being reluctant to throw their full support behind the organization. Since returning to Charlotte, there has not been the consistency needed to sustain fan interest for the long haul.
A change in ownership often signals a new ray of hope when it comes to the direction of a struggling franchise. Bottom line, winning breeds a positive culture and exciting atmosphere that is infectious throughout a community. Currently, the franchise seems to be starting to turn the corner and give fans hope of a brighter future for the Hornets.