Charlotte Coliseum. Independence Arena. Cricket Arena. The East Independence Boulevard location now known as Bojangles' Coliseum has been called a lot of things over the course of its 60-year history. Originally opened in 1955, the venue first underwent renovations in 1988 — so it's about time to freshen it up a bit, wouldn't you say?
The coliseum is currently in the midst of a $16 million-renovation, which the city approved in December, that includes new seats, new sports lighting, a new Daktronics scoreboard, new sound system, new ice-making equipment, concessions updates and improvements to the dressing and locker rooms. While the renovations continue, the CRVA is also looking at potential renovations for its neighboring site, Ovens Auditorium, for next year.
While slightly larger seats — approximately two inches wider — will drop the seating capacity a fraction below its current 9,600 capacity, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which oversees the facility, knows it fills a necessary spot in the venue lineup of the Queen City area.
The coliseum hosts a number of graduation ceremonies in the early summer and has also welcomed a number of other sporting events and concerts in its storied history. "More than 7,500 graduates walked across the stage at Bojangles' Coliseum last year, so those events on a community level are huge for us," CRVA director of communications Laura Hill White says. "We want to make sure we are able to accommodate graduations this year in May and June and make sure the renovations don't interrupt those."
The coliseum recently tested the ice-making capabilities and held a community skate in early April, offering Checkers fans a chance to try out the new ice. White says they hope to hold more events like that in the future.
Starting on Nov. 7, the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League will move back to the location they called home until 2005. The team has been playing home games at Time Warner Cable Arena, but it makes scheduling challenging due to Hornets games and entertainment events that are held at the arena on a regular basis.
Team mascot Chubby the Checker answered our questions about what the renovations will mean to the team.
Creative Loafing: What are you looking forward to in the renovated Bojangles' Coliseum?
We get to put our own spin on an old classic. It'll be the building everyone knows and loves, with cool stuff like new seats, a new scoreboard, and, hopefully, a new freezer where I can stash my salmon. I'm waiting to hear back on that last one.
What are the advantages for you and the team, and even the fans, to having a home of your own?
Ice will be in the building most of the time. Not only is this good news for the team and the fans because we'll get more of those fun Friday and Saturday games, this is also good news for a polar bear in North Carolina. This is not my natural habitat.
You spend your nights hugging fans, shaking hands and kissing babies — ever feel like a politician? And would you consider running for office?
Our politicians need to talk less and dance more. That's what I would say if I could talk out loud. Choose Chubby in 2016.
You're living in North Carolina as a polar bear ... so we're guessing you've had to switch up your diet a bit. What have you found that holds you over as well as a tasty seal or walrus?
When in Rome, eat barbecue. I'm pretty sure that's how that goes. You can usually find me at Queen City Q trying to act like a true Southerner. I blend right in.
You're the city's oldest mascot — how do you keep yourself looking good in the midst of all this change?
I may have had a few rounds of plastic surgery along the way, and believe it or not, I've definitely lost weight. Also: Crossfit.