Raleigh looking toward future downtown arena

March 25, 2008 5:24:46 PM PDT
The past weekend with the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in Raleigh, the action was intense inside the RBC Center.

Outside, however, it was pretty mellow. Fans tailgated in the parking lot, much as they do for Carolina Hurricanes hockey games. But many -- particularly those visiting from out of town -- bemoaned the lack of nearby bars and restaurants.

"You have to travel to get to it versus like a downtown charlotte where you've got everything within walking distance," said Kerri Grawe, in town from Davidson to root on her team.

It's not a new complaint when it comes to Raleigh's main sports arena, which broke ground in 1997 and opened in 1999.

"Development around RBC Center just has not occurred. The market hasn't supported it," said Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker.

And Raleigh leaders are already starting to look at what will come next -- and where it will go, said city Planning Director Mitchell Silver.

"We're actually looking to see how we could accomodate growth downtown, and an arena is actually on our list to see where exactly it could work downtown," Silver said in an interview.

Meeker said a facility like the RBC Center has a useful life of between 25 to 30 years.

"We're about 10 years into that," Meeker said. "So a decision will need to be made after a while as to where the facility needs to be located."

Meeker isn't specifically lobbying for a downtown location, but he said it makes sense to have facilities like the RBC Center in central locations near transportation, shops, restaurants and the like.

Silver says looking at the possibility of a downtown arena will be an aspect of rewriting Raleigh's Comprehensive Plan, a blueprint for how the city wants to and hopes to grow in coming decades.

There's no obvious open site for an arena, but leaders are confident they could find one, perhaps just south of downtown.

"There are locations in downtown where it could go," Silver said.


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