CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Leaders in Charlotte expect roughly 150,00 visitors to come to the Queen City during the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. It will be the largest sporting event the city has ever hosted.
“What we have learned from our city is that we have proved our capability to handle this kind of volume,” said Tom Murray, the CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitor’s Authority.
Festivities will be happening all week across Charlotte and the game will be Sunday night, Feb. 17 at the Spectrum Center.
Whether you plan to attend any events or not, you will most likely feel the impact. Most noticeably in congestion and traffic. An increase in both foot and car traffic is going to spike over the 4 days.
“The best plan in the world is not going to stop some of the congestion we are anticipating through Charlotte,” said CMPD Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) say anyone coming to Charlotte for NBA All-Star activities shouldn’t expect a Sunday drive or a walk in the park.
“It’s mainly just congestion. Not just traffic congestion but we’re also talking about pedestrians,” said Deputy Chief Johnny Jennings. “I was fortunate to go out to L.A. and kind of see how they put they operation’s plan in place as well what some of the issues we can anticipate but it’s mainly just the congestion of people and also the congestion of traffic and what our goal is to mitigate that as best as possible as well as make sure the public is safe.”
Several roads around the Spectrum Center will close Friday and will remain that way through Sunday night.
On Thursday Feb. 14, the city will start to set up a perimeter around the Spectrum Center. Road closures will begin the next morning.
Police say 4th and 6th Streets at Caldwell and Brevard, East Trade Street in front of the arena, and East 5th street on the other side of the arena will close.
With 150,000 people expected to attend All-Star activities, CMPD reached out to some businesses in Center City to see if they can give employees the option of working from home.
It’s not just Uptown that will deal with congestion. The NBA has games at Bojangles Coliseum as well, so police are asking drivers to avoid Independence Boulevard when All-Star weekend starts Friday Feb. 15.
“There’s gonna be some major traffic delays specifically Friday for Independence Boulevard as people try to commute home as well people trying to get to Bojangles coliseum,” said Deputy Chief Jennings. “And we’re going to move it along as best we can. We have a plan to do that. Nothing is going to be perfect that’s going to allow free flowing traffic through Independence Boulevard.”
Charlotte Area Transit will also be changing up their public transit system during the event.
The Charlotte Transportation Center will be relocated to the surface parking lot across from the 7th Street Station parking deck. The SouthPark Community Transit Center, located below SouthPark Mall, will be closed. CATS will re-route service to Morrison Boulevard during the weekend.
LYNX will operate with additional security measures in place. Beginning at 5 p.m., Feb. 15-17, customers traveling from I-485 Station to UNC Charlotte Main Station must exit the train at 3rd Street Station.
Customers traveling from UNC Charlotte Main Station to I-485 Station must exit the train at 7th Street Station. After exiting, there will be a security sweep of the train. Riders will then be able to re-board the train and continue to their destination. Purses, backpacks, suitcases, large tote bags or bulky items will not be allowed on board LYNX trains or at station platforms.
This security measure will be in place until the end of service each night.
LYNX will not stop at the CTC/Arena Station from 5:00 p.m. till the end of service each night during All-Star Weekend. Customers should catch trains at 3rd Street or 7th Street Stations.
The CityLYNX Gold Line will not operate Feb. 15-17.
“We will continue to do our random sweeps for fares,” said CATS CEO John Lewis.
“One of our concerns is transportation and congestion,” said Charlotte Hornets President Fred Whitfield. “We’re working with corporate leaders to encourage them to maybe allow their employees to work remotely on Friday to cut down on some of the traffic flow.”
The city says street parking will be limited, parking garages will be full, and valet services will be suspended. They are encouraging people to use LYNX or ride sharing programs.
“We will become more congested as a city because of the visitors, but we have always delivered a very strong customer experience,” said Murray.
In addition to crowd control, police say officers will also be working inside the arenas. Police say people won't be allowed to bring bag, backpacks, briefcases, luggage into any of the arenas.
Officers will also be working at the Epicentre where the NBA will have activities.
So exactly how many officers will be working that week?
Jennings said "I'm not going to get into specific number of officers but what I can tell you is that we have basically called all hands on deck for our officers to make sure we have the appropriate staffing."
The department isn't just focused on All-Star events. CMPD still has to respond to usual calls for the entire city.
"We want to increase even our radio response patrol officers that are out in the field so that we ensure we have enough to provide services for the citizens,” said Jennings. “We’re actually are even looking at ways to increase what our regular staffing would be because it is NBA All-Star weekend. We want to increase even our radio response patrol officers that are out in the field so that we ensure we have enough to provide services for the citizens.”
According to the CRVA, the economic impact from the event will be more than $100-million.
“Nearly 30 hotels make up an official block with 32-thousand rooms, while those hotels are mostly full, we expect neighboring hotels to be equally full because of the overflow. And that impact we expect to be significant,” said Murray.
Mayor Vi Lyles talked about the boost for those in the hospitality industry.
“Every tip in a restaurant. That person that is going to stay open a few extra hours because of the possibilities provided by the NBA,” said Lyles.