Landlord, tenant relations grow stale between NC State and Canes
Posted June 4, 2013
Updated June 5, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — For more than a decade, the Carolina Hurricanes have played grateful tenant at PNC Arena because the North Carolina State Wolfpack, and its leadership, was amicable in scheduling negotiations with the professional franchise.
Somewhere in the last few years, however, that courteous compromise has been lost and the two sides find themselves in a battle of both words and home.
When asked Tuesday what has changed in the relationship, Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford responded, “I don’t want to comment on that. I have an answer for it, but I would prefer to try and work through this and make it work for both sides.”
Documents obtained Tuesday by WRAL News show an active record of communication over the past year between Rutherford, NC State administrators – including athletics director Debbie Yow and Chancellor Randy Woodson – and Dave Olsen, the vice president and general manager of PNC Arena.
In those records, NC State representatives repeatedly claim to be going above and beyond in compliance with the terms of the contract dated June 19, 1997. However, a Sept. 6, 2012, letter from Yow to Olsen, which was endorsed by basketball coach Mark Gottfried, paints a different picture.
“We regret that abiding by the contract terms could make scheduling NHL games more challenging,” Yow wrote. “That said, our goal is to build a championship-caliber basketball program and the scheduling terms of the contract are designed to support achievement of that goal.”
The terms of the contract agreement state that NC State shall hold all priorities when it comes to scheduling at PNC Arena. The contract also stipulates that both the Wolfpack and visiting teams get use of the facility for pre-game practice. Furthermore, the contract instructs that the use of the arena “requires coordination between the Authority (arena management) and NC State University to promote its most efficient use.”
The last of those terms has become the major point of contention for Rutherford because the NHL has warned the Hurricanes of potential fines if the team cannot keep scheduled games.
“We respect the fact that NC State gets priority dates. We know Saturdays and Wednesdays are important for them because of televised ACC games,” Rutherford said. “What we don’t respect is that they tie up all the dates to play a minimal amount of games.”
Rutherford added in a January letter to Woodson that if the Hurricanes did not play in the arena, losses to the operating company of the Hurricanes would amount to roughly $10 million annually and millions more would be lost in tax revenues and payment to the City of Raleigh, Wake County and the state.
A regular season NHL schedule requires 41 home dates between October 1 and the first week in April. Per the agreement, PNC Arena may also be booked between the months of September and May for events such as graduation ceremonies, the circus, Disney on Ice, the Harlem Globetrotters and professional wrestling. In 2000, the agreement was amended to block out a week in December and February for the circus and Disney on Ice.
“This is a unique situation,” Rutherford said.
Another controversial point between the two sides is the calendar itself. The NHL requires scheduling dates be submitted in time for a July release date. The ACC does not release their schedules until late August, affording NC State more time but putting the Hurricanes at risk of hundreds of thousands of dollars in league fines.
“Through working together and mutual compromise, we have consistently been able to maximize the utilization, and thereby the financial health, of PNC Arena,” Olsen wrote in a letter dated Sept. 24, 2012. “NC State has now taken the position that we must grant them 100 percent priority over all dates at PNC Arena without regard to the reasonableness of what is best for the Authority, the City, the County, the State, Gale Force, the Hurricanes or fans that attend the events.”
Olsen continued to say that without compromise, the venue risks losing major concerts and would never have hosted the NHL All-Star game.
Rutherford added in a May 14 letter that they were specifically told that the current administration at NC State “will not be as flexible as previous administrations,” and that “the number of events will be significantly reduced as more shows will skip PNC Arena due to the lack of available dates.
Rutherford outlined losses to the venue from August to November because NC State stakes claim to 28 dates while only playing “six to seven” football games. He said NC State claims 42 of 92 dates between October and January despite playing only “eight potential home games.” Then, Rutherford added that from January to the end of basketball season, NC State is claiming 59 of 88 calendar dates for “a total of eight potential basketball games.” In all, Rutherford states that NC State has staked claim to 129 of 214 calendar days, including 26 of 30 days in November, for a combined total of 23 Wolfpack sporting events.
Conversely, Woodson said that NC State has complied fully to the terms of the agreement despite giving up a week in February to the circus, which puts the Wofpack “at a competitive disadvantage.” Woodson added that they have also relinquished 11 of 13 Fridays between October and December, reserving only Oct. 11 for “Primetime with the Pack” and Nov. 8 for the basketball team’s regular season home opener. Dec. 3-4 were also reserved in anticipation of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
NC State football, which shares a parking lot with PNC Arena, requested April 20 for the annual spring game. Woodson said concessions were also made on that date due to a 7 p.m. hockey game that forced the Wolfpack to cancel otherwise planned events.
Rutherford indicated that meetings will be planned in the near future to better deal with the scheduling issue. He said that meetings have occurred in the past with little or no resolution.