Farewell, Charlotte Coliseum

Charlotte’s “old new” coliseum, built back in the late 80s and still beautiful when it was all but abandoned a little over ten years later, was imploded Sunday to make way for mixed use development (part business park, part residential). Here’s video of the implosion:

The last use for the “old new” coliseum was to house Hurricane Katrina victims displaced by the hurricane. Oh, and I say “old new” coliseum because we actually have an older coliseum than the “old new” one, called “Cricket Arena” (formerly known as “Independence Arena”) – which seats about 10,000. That was Charlotte’s original coliseum, built back in 1955. The ECHL-affiliated Charlotte Checkers minor league hockey team used to play in that arena, but has since moved to the new Charlotte Bobcats arena, leaving the Cricket Arena with no major tenant.

Exactly one year ago, I wrote about the controversies here involving coliseum projects:

It doesn’t get any better as far as the Charlotte City Council is concerned, either. Today marks the five year anniversary of the day that Charlotte voters surprisingly rejected a $342 million bond package deal that the city wanted to use on sports and cultural projects, including a new uptown arena. The new uptown arena was not a popular idea here in Charlotte, and 57% of voters let that be known with their nay votes, in effect saying “you won’t use our money to build another arena” (Charlotte already had a beautiful Coliseum built for the then-Charlotte Hornets in the late 80’s that everyone loved).

So you’d think that the voters rejecting public money being used on a new uptown arena would be the final word right? Wrong. The city of Charlotte, thanks to a concerted push by Republican (RINO) Mayor Pat McCrory, got its arena anyway. With 65% of the funds coming from tax money. Former City Councilman Don Reid, a solid conservative I met many years ago, talks about it in an interview published in today’s Observer:

Q.. Immediately after the vote, city leaders said they did not intend to build an arena against the voter’s wishes. Are you surprised it happened anyway?

DR: Not really. I’m shocked that it happened and sad that it happened, but not surprised. The power structure in uptown controls the big issues … I think it was a horrible message to send to the people of Charlotte, that their voice means nothing on an issue like this.


Q. What do you think is the long-term effect of city leaders building an arena after voters defeated the bonds?

DR: It has done more to dampen the trust for government than any other one single event that’s happened in Charlotte.

We have a problem in this city and around the country of small election turnouts and people not being interested in local government. They think their efforts are futile. I think building the arena destroyed the credibility of the government and some people on the council.

Q. After the vote, you called the referendum’s defeat the biggest upset in Charlotte’s political history. Do you still believe that?

DR: Yes. The arena package had a lot of money and powerful people leading the charge. We had very little money. I was so pleasantly surprised when the (vote) went down in flames. It was gratifying because I felt it was the right thing to do and 57 percent of Charlotte agreed. For a single issue in the middle of summer, we had as many people turn out as turn out to vote for mayor and city council in many elections. It was a true reflection of how citizens felt.

Yep – a feeling that city ‘leaders’ here ignored. I remember discussing the bond issue at the time with some friends, telling them that even though the bond package was defeated, I knew that Charlotte was still going to find a way to fund the new arena using public money.

We have the same mayor now as we did then: (RINO) Mayor Pat McCrory, who was a big proponent of a new coliseum. The mayor was on hand for the implosion on Sunday, and he looked pretty elated about it, even sharing a champagne toast. You sure pulled the wool over our eyes, didn’t you, mayor? Taxpayers said “no” to public funding for a new arena, and after the vote you promised that we would have a new arena that would be paid for sans public funding. So much for your promises.

Bobcats Arena, our bright and shiny new coliseum, seats thousands less than the “old new” coliseum. It seats 19K to the “old new” one’s 24K.

Why on earth would a growing city like Charlotte downsize from one coliseum to the other? Here’s why:

The Charlotte Coliseum will be demolished tomorrow — five years after its lack of luxury suites and premium seating led the NBA’s Hornets to leave town and two years after it was made redundant by a glitzy replacement.

In other words, there really wasn’t anything wrong with the old new coliseum – it just had too much seating for the average Joe and not enough seating for people who could have funded without taxpayer a much larger, more expansive arena that would have seated comfortably MORE average Joes in addition to providing MORE luxury seating to those who can afford it. Instead, we get a smaller, more uncomfortable arena located in a bad spot: uptown, where it’s easy for corporate Charlotte to get to, but not everyone else. This, an arena in which 65% of the cost was paid by taxpayers.

Is this about class envy? No. It’s about the government right here in my own backyard who told voters they had a voice, but then ignored that voice, acting contrary to what the citizens of Charlotte voted against, and in the process built an arena with mostly public money that benefits the people who could have afforded to fund it wholly more so than the people who had to be forced into it via tax hikes.

The coliseum might have just been demolished this past weekend but the rights of the voters of this city were demolished long ago thanks to ignorant city ‘leaders’ who, like most government bureaucrats, figured they knew better what was best for us than we did.

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