This article originally appeared in the CQ Weekly 2012 Democratic Convention Guide.
The big venues for this week’s Democratic National Convention have long aroused the ire of local Democrats. And that’s in addition to organized labor’s outrage at holding the gathering in a right-to-work state.
The main venue, Time Warner Cable Arena, was a pet project of Pat McCrory, Charlotte’s mayor from 1995 to 2009 and this year’s Republican candidate for governor. And the site for President Obama’s acceptance speech, the 73,000-seat Bank of America Stadium – home of the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers – is being called “Panther Stadium” by Democrats who object to its mega-bank sponsorship.
The 20,000-seat convention hall opened in 2005 as the Charlotte Bobcats Arena but was rechristened three years later when Time Warner bought the naming rights.
It took McCrory years to get the city to fund its construction. In 2001, he failed to persuade Dream City residents to approve a ballot measure that would have spent $200 million on a new stadium for the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets franchise. The franchise was bleeding money at its then-home, suburban Charlotte Coliseum, which had opened in 1989 but was quickly obsolete because it lacked luxury suites and other upscale amenities found in modern stadiums.
In response to McCrory’s veto of a bill to raise the minimum wage to $9, Charlotte’s black ministers helped turn the tide against the arena referendum. (Critics said the stadium package was underpriced at $342 million and that the true cost of the broad arts and sports referendum was closer to $850 million.) The opposition won by 14 percentage points, despite being heavily outspent.
The Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, and the city council voted to approve $265 million toward a new stadium to lure a new NBA franchise, the Bobcats.
McCrory lost a 2008 gubernatorial bid by three points against Democrat Bev Perdue. Perdue declined to seek re-election, and McCrory is leading in polls against his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton.