Officials from the city of Asheville and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians celebrated the renaming of the Asheville Civic Center as the Harrah’s Cherokee Center - Asheville at an event Friday afternoon. The name change officially took place ten days prior on January 1st.
Asheville city council approved the new naming rights deal with Harrah’s Cherokee last year, declining to renew with U.S. Cellular, which had owned the naming rights for the past 10 years. Harrah’s offer was worth three times as much money as U.S. Cellular’s. Chris Corl, the general manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville says that new money ($5.75 million over 10 years) will vastly improve the facility.
"Over 1700-feet of video display equipment is going to be installed this summer, opening the door for our ability to host a greater array of national level sporting events," said Harrah's Cherokee Center - Asheville general manager Chris Corl at Friday's event. "Additional audio/visual equipment, public wi-fi, and sound system enhancements are also to come in the next six months." The ExploreAsheville.com Arena at the center has hosted the Southern Conference men's and women's basketball championships since 2012. Corl told city council last year without the new video boards, it was possible that the tournament would leave Asheville in the near future.
Something else the new naming rights deal will pay for is the kickoff for long sought renovations at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, which is also a part of the center. Officials will unveil designs for those renovations and the future of the auditorium at a public meeting Wednesday evening January 15th at 6 p.m. It takes place at the auditorium.
“In the grand scheme of the project, (the money from the Harrah's naming rights deal) is not huge, but it’s a very good kickoff seed fund," explains Corl. "You can’t do a lot with nothing. You have to start somewhere, and we’re going to have three to four million to start with, and that’s a really big number when you’re talking about major renovations.”
The architecture firm hired by the city to complete the design work and cost estimates - Earl Swensson Associates Inc. - did similar work for the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, Tennessee.