Hurricanes extend PNC Arena deal, weigh up future options

The Carolina Hurricanes have agreed a five-year extension to its lease deal at PNC Arena, with the NHL ice hockey team stating this grants it time to assess its options concerning its home.

The Hurricanes, along with North Carolina State University, have been the main tenants of the arena since it opened in October 1999. The current lease agreement between the Centennial Authority, owners of PNC Arena, and the Hurricanes was due to run through to June 30, 2024, but has now been extended to July 1, 2029.

The Hurricanes were the first major professional sports franchise to locate in the Raleigh-Durham region after moving from Hartford in 1997. Local newspaper the News & Observer said the new lease deal includes a commitment by the Hurricanes not to relocate the franchise during the term.

The Authority will reportedly pay 50% of the arena operating costs each year, up to $3.885m (£3.15m/€3.49m), with rent being reduced to $1.78m in 2020 and eliminated entirely in years to come.

“One of our goals was to get the Hurricanes to be in an average lease situation in the NHL,” said Centennial Authority chairman Tom McCormick. “And they clearly had one of the worst leases in the league. Their cost-to-occupy and so forth were higher than they should be.”

In March 2019, fresh plans were presented for an extensive overhaul of PNC Arena that could cost up to $201.8m. The Centennial Authority received a presentation headed by Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects that updated an original vision presented in 2015.

The Authority has since reportedly asked Ratio and HOK to recommend possible renovation options, but will only consider its options once it has a better sense of the current economic situation amid COVID-19.

In autumn 2019, the Centennial Authority announced plans for upgrades to PNC Arena to enhance the fan experience. The City of Raleigh and Wake County voted to support the upgrades with revenue from the Interlocal Agreement. As of this month, final contributions from that agreement have not been determined.

Commenting on the new lease deal, Hurricanes CEO, owner and governor, Tom Dundon, said in a statement: “This extension gives us the flexibility and time to make sure we make the best long-term decision for the Hurricanes and the Triangle – whether that means a major renovation, development around this arena or a new arena.

“We have a great place to play, but there are things we need to address based on the age of the facility, the arena’s amenities and the area around the building.”