Wake County OKs tourism money for PNC Arena, convention center. Will Raleigh agree?

PNC Arena and the Raleigh Convention Center would get guaranteed tourism money under a plan approved by Wake County leaders Monday.

Missing from the plan is dedicated money for a proposed soccer stadium south of downtown Raleigh. Instead it will compete against other organizations, including the Marbles Kids Museum and the N.C. Museum of Art, for a piece of $46.6 million available to other groups.

Wake County and Raleigh leaders also want to jointly study whether the city can support a stadium and its potential impact on the surrounding property. The goal is to have that feasibility study done by December.

The Downtown South project, pitched by North Carolina FC and NC Courage owner Steve Malik and Raleigh developer John Kane, requested $330 million — $11 million per year for the next 30 years — from the city and county for the project.

Their 20,000-seat, outdoor stadium could be located on 55 acres around Penmarc Drive and South Saunders Street, and would be surrounded by private development. The stadium could hold other athletic, musical and community events, the developers say.

The process to receive a portion of that $46.6 million in tourism money hasn’t been created yet, but Jessica Holmes, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, promised it would be transparent.

PNC Arena would get about $9 million per year until 2034 for improvements to the arena, which could include a rooftop bar, new restaurants and suites for “income-producing spaces.”

One of the priorities in the plan is an indoor sports complex, and the plan includes a competitive process for that type of facility.

The tourism money comes from Wake County’s room occupancy and prepared food and beverages taxes. The money can only be used for tourism-related projects.

The agreement also has to be approved by the Raleigh City Council, which is expected to vote on it at their 1 p.m. meeting Tuesday.

Raleigh Convention Center

One change made during the meeting involved money to help the city lure a significant hotel to downtown.

The plan includes $2.2 million a year for “Raleigh parking and infrastructure” for the Raleigh Convention Center that can be used as a negotiation tool to lure a hotel. The original agreement said the city manager, county manager and the Raleigh City Council would have to approve the negotiations.

However, Wake County Commissioner Vickie Adamson requested that the county commissioners also approve the negotiations to be consistent with the other projects. That board unanimously approved the change, though Wake County Manager David Ellis said that could potentially hold up negotiations between a hotel and the city.

After the meeting, Adamson said she wasn’t concerned about hold-ups.

“If it’s a good deal today, it should be a good deal tomorrow,” she said.

Assistant City Manager Jim Greene said he had no comment about the change after Monday’s meeting.

Here’s the breakdown of the tourism money the county-approved plan would give the convention center:

  • About $3 million per year for maintenance.
  • A one-time $5 million for convention center upgrades in 2021.
  • A one-time $14 million to buy land near the convention center for an expansion in 2020.
  • About $2.575 million a year starting in 2025 for a “Raleigh music venue relocation” This would likely be moving Red Hat Amphitheater to another location for a convention center expansion.
  • About $15 million a year starting in 2028 for a convention center expansion.
  • About $2.2 million a year for the parking and infrastructure negotiations.
Related stories from Durham Herald Sun

Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University.
Support my work with a digital subscription