NHL ice hockey franchise the Carolina Hurricanes has tied its long-term future to PNC Arena and the city of Raleigh through the signing of a 20-year lease extension that will also seek to transform the venue as part of what is claimed to be one of the biggest economic development projects in the history of the region.
The Centennial Authority, owner and operator of PNC Arena, and Gale Force Sports and Entertainment, parent company of the Hurricanes, announced the deal yesterday (Tuesday). The newly signed lease states that the Hurricanes will occupy PNC Arena through the 2043-44 NHL season.
As part of the agreement, PNC Arena will undergo major renovations, including the development of a sports and entertainment district and public gathering space around the facility. The development will seek to create a live, work, play destination for Triangle residents and visitors throughout the year.
The Hurricanes, the first major professional sports franchise located in the Raleigh-Durham region, have called PNC Arena home since the building’s inception in 1999. The new lease extension includes a combined $300m (£235.3m/€274.5m) investment from the City of Raleigh and Wake County.
As a part of the development, Gale Force will enter into a ground lease to develop the land surrounding PNC Arena in a phased approach. Gale Force will commit to a minimum $200m in Phase One development within five years, $400m within 10 years, and $800m within 20 years. Additionally, Gale Force will pay for 100% of all private renovations to PNC Arena.
The Phase One commitment by Gale Force includes developing at least 100,000 square feet of retail/dining space, 150,000 square feet of office space, 200 multi-family residential units, a 150-room hotel, and a 3,000-5,000 capacity indoor music venue.
Additionally, Gale Force will provide 10% affordable, workforce and/or faculty housing on all phases at no more than 80% of area median income levels. Gale Force will also commit to replacing 95% of any public parking displaced by the development and will set aside five acres for a dedicated tailgate zone.
PNC Arena is said to contribute approximately $262m annually to the Wake County economy. Along with Hurricanes games, the venue also stages NC State men’s college basketball and major concerts and other entertainment events.
Philip Isley, Centennial Authority board chair, said: “This renovation and development of a sports and entertainment district around PNC Arena will represent one of the biggest economic development projects in the history of the region.”
He continued: “If you look at this area right now, it’s really a collection of state-owned property with a lot of grass and trees. This potential development project is going to be the greatest thing to happen to West Raleigh since North Carolina State decided to build its university there.
“It’s going to really be the catalyst for an extraordinary entrance into our city from the airport and everything that’s happening on Blue Ridge Road with the state-owned properties. It can only get better.”
Architecture firms Ratio and HOK were said to have presented plans for a major renovation project at PNC Arena back in February. In July 2021, the Hurricanes signed off on a five-year lease extension that was due to see the team occupy PNC Arena until September 30, 2029.
The news came after a similar announcement was made in May 2020. At the time, a five-year extension was also agreed, with the Hurricanes stating this granted the team time to assess its options concerning its home.
Local newspaper The News & Observer said yesterday’s deal overrides the one signed in July 2021, replacing all of the termination rights with “standard non-relocation provisions” used by other NHL teams. The existing clauses had meant the Hurricanes had the option of buying their way out of the contract as soon as the end of next season.
The new contract includes the stipulation that “the Hurricanes shall not relocate” unless the authority and team fail to “confer in good faith” on the “future of PNC Arena or a replacement arena” in 2039, when the facility will be 40 years old.
The Hurricanes will also pay the Centennial Authority $4.5m per season starting in 2029, rising to $5.5m over the next 15 years. Under the current lease, they pay no rent and receive an operating subsidy of almost $2m from the authority.
“Our goal is to transform PNC Arena into one of the most comfortable, versatile and fan-friendly experiences in the country,” said Don Waddell, president and general manager of the Hurricanes. “This project will completely revitalise PNC Arena to make it a state-of-the-art facility at a fraction of the cost of a new arena.”
He added: “The bones of PNC Arena are in good shape. With the money the Centennial Authority has invested, and my staff maintaining it, we’re in really good shape. What we don’t have is some of the amenities that some of the newer buildings have, such as clubs and food options. Everything we’re talking about right now is consumer-facing.”