Home > Sports > Hurricanes vs. Raleigh: I called it a year and a half ago

Hurricanes vs. Raleigh: I called it a year and a half ago

It doesn’t happen often, so let me indulge in a little self-congratulations (which is legal in all states except Utah). Immediately after the Hurricanes won the 2006 Stanley Cup, I saw an item in the local Raleigh media about the need for $15-25 million in needs. The article came out just five days after the Canes won Lord Stanley’s audacious silver artifact, causing a huge uproar from, well… just me. Nobody else said squat.
Here’s what I wrote at the time:

The chairman of the Centennial Authority, who runs the RBC Center, said that they are looking for improvements to make it last for 20-30 years. Uh, it’s only seven years old. Christ, do we get a warranty this time around?

Well, let’s fast-forward almost 18 months. An article appeared in the Triangle Business Journal today called, “Canes yet to sign lease, but $47M OK’d for RBC Center upgrades.” So… $47 million to “fix” an 8-year-old building? Did they have the same national homebuilder that built my house (which is seven years old with an HVAC system that must have been installed by illiterate mutants)?

Let’s recap this latest news. From the lead paragraph: “The authority that oversees the RBC Center has brokered a deal that will pour nearly $50 million in public funds into arena improvements but has come up empty in its quest to secure a lease extension from the Carolina Hurricanes and their parent company.”

Reaction: OK, this dollar figure is 2-3 times what we were expecting from the June 2006 news. And it’s all public money (because the Hurricanes are our favorite charity). But the Canes don’t want to sign a lease extension, even though the City of Raleigh and other public-sector entities have already bent over and assumed the “thank you sir, may I have another?” position. Nice!

The next two paragraphs just kill me, though:

In fact, the city of Raleigh and Wake County have released the Centennial Authority from a previous agreement that required a lease extension to be signed with the Hurricanes before a capital improvement program could begin.

Now, the city of Raleigh, Wake County, the Centennial Authority and North Carolina State University have agreed to spend $47 million to upgrade the building over the next 15 years without a lease extension from the prime tenant, which also manages the building.

Who’s negotiating this deal on behalf of the citizens of Raleigh, Wake County and the state of North Carolina? Goober from The Andy Griffith Show? Basically, we’re telling the Hurricanes that they can have anything they want, but in return, we ask nothing of them. No loyalty (lease extension). No guarantees that they won’t bolt and leave us with the second large money-losing arena in the Triangle (the other being UNC’s Smith Center, which was at least built with private funds). And all of this for a member of the NHL, which is on the verge of becoming the most minor of all major sports. Unbelievable!

My favorite part of the article is by Jim “Love ’em or leave Hartford” Rutherford.

Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford downplayed the notion of a concession. “This is not about us,” he says. “This is about continuing to keep this a first-class building.”

There’s bullshit, and then there’s unadulterated bullshit. This is the latter. The issue here is all about keeping the Hurricanes. Without the “anchor” tenant in this space, the RBC Center will not have a chance to be profitable, which is critical since it technically hasn’t been paid for yet. So, what’s the option? Soak the NC taxpayer again.

And what really grinds my gears? Very little discussion of this issue in the media. I guess times are good in the Triangle. $47 million for a team that we only really support when they’re winning? For a team where anyone really has only a decade-old tie to the team? For a team that won’t even sign a lease extension, giving them (presumably) the ability to cut-and-run when the mood strikes? In a sport whose primary network usually gets better ratings for the Tour de France?

Yeah, this is in no way going to end badly.

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