Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: Do you know what happened to the money Harrah’s paid the city for the naming rights? And where that money is now? It doesn’t seem like it was used for much.
My answer: Now, now. Maybe it was used for the netting to keep pieces of the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium ceiling from falling on performers’ heads.
Real answer: I wrote about the sad state of affairs at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in a recent column, and that apparently spawned this follow-up question.
Chris Corl, director of community and regional entertainment facilities for the City of Asheville, said they’re grateful to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who run the casino, for buying the naming rights of the venue. The 10-year deal is valued at $5.75 million, with $5 million for the naming rights license, $500,000 for fan experience improvements and $250,000 toward brand change expenses.
The Harrah’s Cherokee Center-Asheville comprises the ExploreAsheville.com arena and the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.
“We are in the third calendar year of an up to 10-year agreement with Harrah’s Cherokee,” Corl said via email. “In total, we have received $2,250,000 related to the contract. Projects associated with these revenues have totaled $2,868,250.”
Additionally, Corl said the city also has completed capital maintenance and other upkeep projects since starting the agreement, using funds from other sponsorship agreements and the city’s annual capital allocation provided to the facility. These projects have cost $588,134.
Here’s a breakdown of the spending:
- Brand change: $255,765. “This project covered expenses related to changing the venue name from U.S. Cellular Center to Harrah’s Cherokee Center and included the monument sign, highway and wayfinding signage, uniforms, a new website, refinishing the basketball court and other physical assets which display our mark,” Corl said.
- Fan experience: $1,332,408. “This project included the purchase and installation of our two video boards, LED courtside displays and four ribbon boards in the arena as well as the associated infrastructure,” Corl said. “Additionally this project included an LED lighting upgrade to the arena seating area, and purchase of live video presentation equipment to live stream/broadcast events.”
- Arena exterior water mitigation: $1,266,782. This involved pressure washing and cleaning the exterior of the arena and applying a 20-year epoxy coating to protect the exterior and prevent leaks, Corl said. “Additionally, the project repaired water leaks and replaced all of the arena concourse windows and back patio exit doors.”
- Thomas Wolfe Auditorium Green Room HVAC: $13,295. This involved installing new mini-split HVAC units in the green room and dressing room spaces in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium after the green room air handler failed permanently in December of 2019, Corl said.
Question: We use the Reed Creek Greenway just about every day to walk our dog. I was wondering if you might know when they’re going to be extending the greenway past Elizabeth Street. I looked at the proposed plans of the greenway, and it shows it going all the way down to I-240, and then up that little street along 240 that goes up by the skate park. I’m just wondering when that’s going to be happening, and if it’s going to be happening. It would be great if they would extend it past Elizabeth Street.
My answer: What would be great is if the city extended the greenway right through the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. That way, the performance hall might actually get fixed up.
Real answer: This is another follow-up question, this time to an Answer Man column I wrote last week about the greenway and its upkeep and restrooms.
This time, city spokeswoman Jessica Hughes helped with the answers, noting the city has a contract with McAdams, a civil engineering and land planning firm, to conduct a feasibility study to extend the Reed Creek Greenway to the north and south.
“The northern section will be extended from the intersection of W.T. Weaver Boulevard and Broadway Street, to the intersection of Riverside Drive and Broadway Street, and the southern section will start at Elizabeth Street and stop near the intersection of Clingman Ave and Hilliard,” Hughes said via email. “The study will identify the most optimal route for the extensions.”
Council approved the contract in May.
“The study had its kick-off meeting in June, and is anticipated to take six-nine months to complete,” Hughes said. “Following the feasibility study, the city will still need to complete design and engineering before being able to build the greenway extension.”
Hughes said the city is working on an updated project page, which you can find here. It should be updated by week’s end.
The site notes the city got a $50,000 grant from the French Broad River Metropolitan Organization to conduct the feasibility study.
As far as when it may actually be built, Hughes said, “At this time we do not have a timeline for the construction of the extensions because there are several factors that will need to be considered after the study is complete, including funding.”
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941.