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Hornets Revise Arena Funding Plan

June 28, 2000

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ The Charlotte Hornets have made a third offer in negotiations over financing a new downtown arena, this time offering to pay operating costs for 25 years through a private entertainment company.

The team wants a new arena because Charlotte Coliseum, four miles from downtown, lacks the premium seating sold to corporations and wealthy fans. Most elected officials agree a new arena should be downtown to spur development.

The team hopes to open an arena in the fall of 2002 on 10 acres near Ericsson Stadium that the city could acquire in a land swap with First Union bank.

The team and the city have until Dec. 31 to reach an agreement. After that, the Hornets can leave Charlotte without financial penalty.

The plan offered Tuesday to a city council committee proposes that Big Play Entertainment, a company controlled by Hornets co-owners Ray Wooldridge and George Shinn, operate the arena and two other existing halls.

A handful of citizen activists attended the meeting of council’s economic development committee.

``Shinn and Wooldridge,″ Walter Shapiro said, ``are trying to buy the cow with its own milk.″

Taxpayers would pay $137.5 million toward a $200 million arena. The Hornets or Big Play would put up $62.5 million toward the building: $10 million up front and the rest from money made at the arena.

Big Play also would pay $190 million over 25 years to operate the new arena and the city-owned Independence Arena and Ovens Auditorium, which do not make a profit.

Big Play would reap the profits if the arenas make money and suffer the losses if they don’t.

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