Charlotte Coliseum has been the home to not just one, but two NBA franchises - the Charlotte Hornets, who
began play here in the late 80s, but then left for greener pastures in New Orleans. The Hornets' owner had
pretty much worn out his welcome in this community after repeated demands for a publicly financed new
arena, not to mention several embarassing off the court incidents. Even though this community had initially
embraced the Hornets and built them Charlotte Coliseum, a 23,000 seat palace built primarily for their NBA
franchise, the venue was just too large and too lacking in premium amenities.
So the Hornets move and the Charlotte Bobcats, an expansion team the NBA's 30th franchise, enter the
scene. And yes, a new arena is going up in downtown Charlotte (actually called "Uptown Charlotte") and is
scheduled to open in time for the 2005-06 season. So where do the Bobcats begin play? Charlotte Coliseum.
And for one season this venue once again houses an NBA team.
Getting to the venue
Car is about the only way to get to The Coliseum. From I-77 one exits at Billy Graham Parkway and then just
follow the signs. Overhead directional lane signs are adjustable, allowing for more traffic lanes and easier
traffic flow into the venue. Pretty easy in and out.
Outside the venue
The building is located about 5 miles from downtown and in proximity to the airport. It is situated adjacent to a
modern office park and some premier hotel properties, all of which were floodlit and beautifully landscaped
lending to an attractive setting. There is no adjacent neighborhood within walking distance for pre or post
game activity, and also no public transportation. Parking is abundant and cheap ($6), and the lot is attractively
landscaped with ample greenspace and decorative lighting, providing a warm feel (what a contrast from
Continental Arena, where gray asphalt rises out of the New Jersey swamp!).
The arena itself was excavated into a hill, so the main concourse is at ground level and the playing surface is
about 45 feet below ground level. There is a single main entrance with a small lobby and ticket windows, and
the round building is ringed with a wide single concourse and with views to the outside from every vantage
point thanks to large windows. Ceilings and walls are white and the halls are brightly lit, and green yellow and
white banners sporting the venue's logo add a nice splash of color, in addition to the many concession
canopies and remote kiosks. There is a small upper concourse overlooking the main concourse for upper
level seat holders.
Despite the large size of the building, club seating here is sorely lacking. Obviously the front sections closest
to the court are designated premium seating, and there is a premium membership club called the "Crown
Club" which is essentially converted banquet space and is situated at court level. No suites in the building
save for three "boxes" at the top of the lower seating bowl, and in today's day and age, this is the achilles heel
of this venue, and the primary reason why new digs are going up in the center of the city.
The seating bowl is oval shaped, and broken into two decks, both of which have many, many rows and are a
climb up or down if your location isn't close to the alcoves. In the center is an 8 sided scoreboard with 4 video
screens that have dull and washed out images. Along the balcony are stat boards and out of town
scoreboards. Ad panels are all backlit and stationary, exception being the courtside panel along the media
Being an expansion club, the Bobcats have no banners of their own. There is one banner for the WNBA Sting
celebrating a Conference championship.
There was actually a small brew pub kiosk right in the concourse with a shiny copper vat. Other than that
nothing distinctive. Being an 80s arena there are no restaurants, but a members only "Crown Club" in the
basement. No team store, but several remote kiosks.
Things of note here are how the concessions are set up throughout the facility. You want ballpark dreck???
Then the permanent stands are for you. If specialty foods are your thing, then check out the temporary kiosks
that ring the outer edge of the main concourse.
Everything from caesar salads to sandwich wraps to ice cream sundaes to be found.
If you didn't realize that you are in tobacco country, you would here as they actually sell cigarettes along with
the rest of the dreck, the only venue we know of where one can actually buy tobacco.
A temporary team store is located outside the arena proper with a very basic selection of Bobcat gear.
Andrew was devastated not to be able to find a Primos Brezec jersey in his size.....his night was totally
Slam dunks, assists, fouls...
Slam dunk...Heard from several ushers as we went by and greeted them - "Welcome to Charlotte - y'all have a
good time!". After the pummeling we previously took in New Jersey on our Hornets visit, and then dealing with
all the nonsense in Memphis on our Bobcats visit, what a refreshing change. THANK YOU CHARLOTTE!
Trivia time...What do Charlotte Coliseum and HSBC Arena in Buffalo have in common? Both buildings
endured the crash of their scoreboards in their respective inaugural seasons.
Foul... Speaking of scoreboard, what hideous technology! The video boards here are dark, fuzzy and dimly lit
with washed out images. "Tranquility base the Eagle has landed."
Watching the Apollo 11 footage is a better experience.
Assist... And a mention to Bob Johnson, one of the principals of the BET cable network, who is the first
minority race owner in the four major sports! We wish him and his team success.
Slam dunk... Walking out after our Hornets experience, we noticed that the in house music system is piped
outside the building and there are even discreetly placed speakers on poles out in the parking lot. As we
walked to the car, we could hear the music ("Celebration" and "Shout" - yes the Hornets won) ways away from
Foul- the Bobcats played a miserable game against the lowly Golden State Warriors and lost by a 103-87
count, the win was the first of the season for the Warriors.
Our return visit here just confirmed our thoughts and impressions on our initial trip here back in 2001.. this
arena is so big, so impersonal, so lacking in charm, one just feels a little overwhelmed at the sheer size of
the seating bowl. For the most part, wherever you sit here you will be far, far away from the playing surface. On
the plus side, game day staff is pretty laid back and friendly, and moving around and even upgrading seats
here is not a problem. The food offerings here are much improved since our first stop here, and between
parking and ticket prices, this is a cheap night out for an NBA game.
Keep in mind that we are in the midst of a basketball hotbed ... even this venue has hosted a Mens and a
Womens basketball final four, several ACC tournaments, and the elite basketball programs in the ACC are a
scant few miles away. Will the history and traditions of basketball here in North Carolina be appropriately
reflected in the concourses, bricks, mortar and displays of the new Charlotte Center? That question will be
answered come fall 2005 when we make our return visit to see the Bobcats once again. Save us a couple
RATING (1-5 stars): 2 STARS
RATING (1-5 stars) on return visit: 2 STARS