The Charlotte Hornets want to bring 15-year-old Spectrum Center in line with other NBA renovations. (Getty Images)

CAA Icon hires design firm to study possible upgrades at Hornets’ home

Perkins & Will, an architecture firm that has designed numerous NBA arena renovations, has been hired to study potential upgrades to Spectrum Center, the 15-year-old home of the Charlotte Hornets.

The Denver-based firm serves as a consultant to CAA Icon, the owner’s representative hired by the Hornets to manage the improvements. Perkins & Will was awarded the job through a request for proposal that drew seven responses.

It’s unclear whether Perkins & Will would do the design work after the study is completed or whether a separate proposal would be issued after the scope is defined. 

The firm signed a nondisclosure agreement and can’t discuss details, principal-in-charge Ernest Joyner said.

“At this point, it’s just ideas,” Joyner said.  “We don’t have a budget, and no funding has been allocated. It’s all in the ‘what can be done’ stage. The Hornets want to bring the building in line with what other renovations have done.”

Early in the process, there’s a lot to choose from across the NBA, where arenas in Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and San Antonio have all undergone major facelifts over the past five years.

Five of those six arenas opened in the 1990s. Those projects ran between $110 million and $265 million, the cost to update Wells Fargo Center in Philly.

On its own, Perkins & Will, which acquired sports architecture firm Sink Combs Dethlefs in 2017, designed makeovers to Target Center and Chesapeake Energy Arena, both of which surpassed $100 million in costs. 

CAA Icon was the owner’s rep for both arena renovations, Joyner said.

Target Center, the 30-year-old home of the Minnesota Timberwolves, underwent a $145 million facelift completed three years ago. The job covered renovations to premium levels, concourse and restroom improvements, plus a new exterior tied to a three-story glass atrium, bringing a much brighter front door to patrons in downtown Minneapolis.

In Oklahoma City, the arena opened in 2002 and went through a series of improvements a decade ago to bring it up to NBA standards after the old Seattle SuperSonics relocated and became the Oklahoma City Thunder. Joyner was lead architect of the $185 million job. 

In Charlotte, CAA Icon and Perkins & Will are tasked with developing a plan to refresh an arena that was built on a tight budget of about $200 million in hard construction costs and opened in 2005. 

Fifteen years later, a pair of continuing NBA arena remodels, Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix ($230 million) and Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis ($362 million), have surpassed that number. Both opened in the 1990s.

A few years ago, Spectrum Center went through a modest $28 million refurb that extended from installing a new center-hung videoboard to updating the Crown Club event-level lounge and rebranding the Flight Deck, the arena’s sitdown restaurant, among other spaces.

In addition, the arena’s box office and team store switched locations, expanding the retail space and giving it greater exposure inside the facility’s main entrance.

AECOM, the arena’s original architect when it was known as Ellerbe Becket, designed those improvements.

Other parts of Spectrum Center have remained relatively untouched over time.

For years, the Hornets have discussed the possibility of removing the Terrace Tables and Royal Boxes, the arena’s loge box products, and replacing them with regular seats. Those premium seats, connected to the Flight Deck eatery, have been a tough sell for years and because of their location at stage end, they’re often left out of the manifest for concerts booked at the arena. 

Loge boxes, which are typically groups of four seats with counter space and small video screens or tablets to order food and drink, face the stage in other NBA markets. In turn, it creates demand for a midpriced premium product for all events.

Overall, the study will consider diverse seating products across the board at every price point, along with developing new options for concessions apart from the traditional belly-up model, Joyner said.

Most recently, the pandemic has driven movement to touchless and contactless food service at sports venues, which is part of the role CAA Icon fills for big league teams as they retrofit their buildings.

Editor’s Note: This story has been revised since it was originally posted.