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Centennial Authority Tries to Avoid a Silent Arena

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RALEIGH — No cheering from concerts. No thunder from basketball and hockey games. Instead, the sound of silence will be coming out of Raleigh's new arena if the group building it doesn't get more money.

The feeling is that the arena project will not get completed before next fall unless the Centennial Authority can come up with an additional $26 million by this October. That's the agreement they have with the project's contractors.

The Centennial Authority, which is overseeing the construction of the new arena, recently agreed to pay another $26 million in return for a guarantee that the arena will be ready next September. Tuesday, the Authority announced a step in the right direction, but there's still a lot of arm twisting to do.

Chances of residents seeing NHL hockey in Raleigh next fall are looking at least a little brighter. The group overseeing construction of the Centennial Arena asked N.C. State for another $10 million to help pay off a sizeable budget shortfall; N.C. State has committed to pay half that.

"We're very grateful to N.C. State for their offer. It gets us someplace. Now we can take another step," said Curt Williams, the Centennial Authority's executive director.

To erase the entire shortfall, the Centennial Authority is counting on the $5 million from N.C. State, $7 million in bank loans, and $14 million it still must request from the Carolina Hurricanes. The Authority says the arena's major users must pay the lion's share of the additional costs.

"They are the biggest user and the biggest gainer of the building. Since the other partners, us and N.C. State have stepped up, it's the Hurricanes' opportunity to step up," said Reef Ivey, a Centennial Authority member.

Getting more arena money from the Hurricanes could be a tough sell, since the team's original bailout package was turned down by the Centennial Authority. But the Authority says it's pretty simple. If the Hurricanes don't come up with the $14 million, the arena won't be ready next fall.

"I wouldn't call it an ultimatum, because they can still have the building. They just can't have it by Sept. 1 of 1999 without their contribution," Ivey explained.

If the Centennial Authority does get $14 million from the Carolina Hurricanes, it would not have to ask the city of Raleigh or Wake County for any money.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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