The Wolfpacker

November 2019

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 74 of 139

NOVEMBER 2019 ■ 73 BASKETBALL PREVIEW 2019-20 "Through the years, we have worked out many of the kinks that come with constant changeover between basketball, hockey, con- certs and other events," Merritt said. The building infrastructure — primarily the chiller, boiler and all the pipes needed to regulate the temperature through the year — has been kept in good working order, leaving much of the funding that comes from the Interlocal Agreement from hotel-motel occu- pancy and food and alcohol taxes to be used for renovations and upgrades. That has allowed the Centennial Author- ity to keep enhancing the fan experience, through state-of-the-art digital displays, like the ribbon board that was first installed in 2003, then upgraded in 2016, and a new sound system that was installed in 2008. The building also added rooftop cell towers and WiFi capabilities, neither of which were at the top of the list of requirements when NC State started planning for a new home in the early 1990s. New this year is a 4,000-square-foot, cen- ter-hung LED scoreboard that looms over both the hockey rink and the basketball court. Three times bigger than the previous score- board, the new $4.7 million system needs four large displays under it so fans sitting closest to the court or ice can watch replays and videoboard programming. "It looks like two Norfolk Southern loco- motives hanging from the ceiling," Merritt explained. "It's going to be interesting to see how it changes the fan experience for basket- ball because it covers almost the entire area of the court." More changes are in the works, includ- ing enhanced entrances on the east and west side and a dramatic new front façade that faces Carter-Finley Stadium and a four-story tower of office space on the north end. There are plans for more standing room, some- thing millennial and Gen-Z spectators like more than reserved seating; the elimination of aisles and reconfiguration of seats; earlier openings before events; and for whatever comes next. Those enhancements are likely to cost up to $200 million, which is about $42 million more than the original building did when it opened on Oct. 29, 1999, with an NHL game between the Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils. Three weeks later, on Nov. 19, the Wolf- pack men's basketball team hosted its first regular-season basketball game at the new arena, beating Georgia 67-63 in front of a sold-out crowd. In between, on Nov. 5, the building hosted the first of many concerts, when all-woman R&B group TLC performed as part of its FanMail Tour. Through the years, the building has gone through three name changes. It was origi- nally known as the Entertainment and Sports Arena, before the Centennial Authority se- cured a 20-year naming rights deal with the Royal Bank of Canada. It was known as the RBC Center from 2002 until 2012, when PNC Financial bought RBC Centura and changed the name on the building. It's been called PNC Arena ever since. The two major tenants have had just as many changes, with one-time tenant, the Car- olina Cobras of the Arena Football League, disappearing altogether. The Wolfpack is now on its fourth head coach and third ath- letics director of the PNC era, while the Hur- ricanes are on their fifth coach, including two different stints by Paul Maurice, and second owner. Kevin Keatts, now entering his third season as NC State's head coach, is an un- abashed fan of Reynolds Coliseum, the Wolf- pack men's home from 1949-99 that PNC replaced. His affection went up exponen- tially after the school hosted three National Invitation Tournament games at the refur- bished and renovated old barn last season. He's happy that two regular-season Heritage Games will be played there this year, Nov. 16 versus St. Francis Brooklyn and Nov. 19 versus Alcorn State. But that in no way dims the view he has of the Wolfpack's permanent home, which remains the eighth-largest college basketball arena in the country and can accommodate NCAA Championship-sized crowds. NC State fans continue to fill the place, averaging between 14,000-15,000 fans per game year. The Wolfpack has ranked in the top 25 in NCAA basketball attendance every year the doors have been opened, and as high as No. 7 overall in its inaugural season. (Attendance for Heritage Games in smaller Reynolds are included in those averages.) "We are fortunate at NC State to have two great places to play," Keatts said. The NCAA Championships also have been fond of PNC, bringing first- and sec- ond-round men's games there in 2004, '08, '14 and '16; and the NCAA women's first and second rounds in 2007. It is slated to host the men's preliminary rounds in 2021. "I think it's one of the best arenas in col- lege basketball," Keatts said. "One of the reasons I wanted to come here and one of the reasons that players want to come here is to play in a 20,000-seat, pro-style arena. "It's such a great recruiting tool." As well as a gathering place for students, alumni, staff and fans, even if it is not as con- venient for some as an on-campus arena, and traffic ingress and egress for early evening games has always conflicted with Research Triangle rush-hour commuter traffic. Parking is ample, and the amenities are more than at any other ACC arena. For Keatts, the lower bowl placement of student seating is an important component for creating a home-court advantage, but he would like to see more young faces in the crowds. "What I would love to see is 5,000-plus students at all of our games, to go with all our season-ticket holders," Keatts said. "We are a school of 35,000 students, with a beautiful and modern home to play in, so I don't think it's too much to ask to have 5,000 to 10,000 students at every game." As a shared facility, there will always be The first NC State basketball game at PNC Arena was played on Nov. 19, 1999, a 67-63 win against Georgia. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolfpacker - November 2019