Luke DeCock

At arena board, some hope for better days as sale of the Hurricanes proceeds ... slowly

Chuck Greenberg, who is leading a group that hopes to buy the Carolina Hurricanes, visits Raleigh Center Ice on July 24, 2017.
Chuck Greenberg, who is leading a group that hopes to buy the Carolina Hurricanes, visits Raleigh Center Ice on July 24, 2017. cseward@newsobserver.com

The Centennial Authority met Thursday afternoon in the same PNC Arena conference room Chuck Greenberg has been using to meet with current and potential investors in the Carolina Hurricanes, and the words “Chuck Greenberg” were never mentioned once.

For the moment, even in this very important room underneath the arena, the sale remains merely a whisper.

It’s a slightly curious situation for the governing board that oversees the arena, since it must plan for the future of PNC without knowing who is going to own one of its two primary tenants, as Greenberg continues his due diligence on his prospective purchase of the Hurricanes while current owner Peter Karmanos publicly pressed him this week to solidify his ownership group and hurry things up before he says “sayonara” and goes looking for even more money than the $500 million that has been reported as the purchase price. (After all, it only took seven years to get a buyer this far; why not start over and hold out for a cool billion?)

Greenberg’s style, wherever he has taken over sports teams, has been to push through a bunch of facility improvements to immediately upgrade the fan experience. To do that at PNC Arena if he buys the Hurricanes, those will need to run through the Centennial Authority, which controls the building. The authority will also have to approve the transfer of the arena lease from the Hurricanes’ management group to any new owner.

So far, none of the key players on the authority – executive director Jeff Merritt, chairman Tom McCormick and former chairman Steve Stroud – have met Greenberg, although the potential owner is expected back in Raleigh next week to continue his inspection of the team and the market.

“I think we’ll get a good owner out of this,” Stroud said afterward. “From what I’ve seen, I like Chuck Greenberg. I have not met him, have not spoken with him, but he seems to have a passion and a history. If he can put the ownership group that he envisions (together), I think it’ll be good. What he’s asking for is more local involvement, which I think is a good thing. And I think he’s going to get it.

“I hear some very positive things from people that are meeting with him and talking with him. I’m very thankful that Peter Karmanos has been such an outstanding part of our community and wish him luck on bringing the right ownership group to take his place.”

The authority and the Hurricanes already have preliminary plans for major renovations to the arena, building new office space for the team at the north end of the arena while converting the current south-end offices into an entertainment district with bars and restaurants and other fan amenities. Those plans were not discussed Thursday and appear to be on hold for the moment.

The authority did hear a report from consultant Venue Solutions Group about the current state of the arena – aesthetically, structurally and mechanically – which indicated that while the 18-year-old arena remains in good shape in many areas, it’s going to need expensive work on its roof, ice plant and main kitchen soon. It’s possible such major repairs could potentially conflict with any upgrades Greenberg would like to make, even if his group intends to pay for them itself.

These are all issues yet to be resolved with the sale, although there are clearly more pressing issues for Greenberg to address – especially with Karmanos demanding progress, and threatening to pull the deal if he doesn’t see any.

“Sooner or later I have some other friends that are very well off that we could put together to keep the team going forward and solve my particular problem,” Karmanos said this week, which raises the question of why he didn’t just go ahead and do that years ago.

But nine-figure deals like this are complicated, and Greenberg continues to go through his process. Even if all goes well, it’s unlikely the deal would close until October at the earliest. Still, by the time the Centennial Authority next meets on Oct. 5, Greenberg could be its primary topic of discussion.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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