Venue Explorer: Charlotte
Entertainment options in Charlotte range from massive stadiums where living legends strut their stuff, to the relatively cozy confines of clubs where up-and-coming bands bring their A-game to a hardy throng of listeners on the lookout. Of course the city is no slouch when it comes to sports venues either, with arenas where you can catch national basketball conferences, a major speedway that’s a go-to spot for all things NASCAR, and much more.
Charlotte Sports & Music Venues
First and foremost, Bank of America Stadium has always been known to football fans as the home of the Carolina Panthers. From the time it opened in 1996 as Ericsson Stadium, it’s been the site of every Panthers home game. B of A took it over in 2004, and continued the proud football tradition. Holding more than 75,500 fans, the massive glass, concrete, and steel structure simply roars “Panthers” before you even step inside, from its black, blue, and silver Panthers color scheme to the giant bronze panthers outside all of the stadium’s entrances, and the light domes projecting Panthers process blue into the sky. The stadium has only hosted a couple of concerts, but boy, they were big ones: The Rolling Stones on the 1997 Bridges to Babylon Tour and Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw on their 2012 Brothers of the Sun Tour. But between Panthers games, playoffs, and the Belk Bowl with the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences, there’s just not a lot of time for much more.
Ever since it opened in 2005 as the Charlotte Bobcats Arena (it became the Spectrum Center in 2016), the Trade St. edifice has been a basketball venue at its core. It’s best known as the home of the NBA‘s Charlotte Hornets, but housing more than 20,000 in its biggest configuration, it’s hosted plenty of college basketball too, including NCAA, ACC, and Southern Conference tournaments as well as loads of UNC Charlotte 49ers football games. But there are plenty of other strings to the Spectrum’s bow. It’s been the site of everything from the 2012 Democratic National Convention to the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, not to mention Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the annual Disney on Ice spectacular, and concerts by pop superstars like Fleetwood Mac and Pink.
The long history of Bojangles’ Coliseum began back in 1955 when it opened as the Charlotte Coliseum. Sporting what was then the world’s biggest unsupported dome, the arena was dedicated by Billy Graham upon its opening. Hockey fans know its main occupants are the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers, but the 8,600-capacity Coliseum has also played host to plenty of basketball as well as wrestling and even roller derby. It’s got some heavy history when it comes to concerts, too. Elvis Presley played there from the beginning of his rocket ride to the end, and more recently, Bojangles’ Coliseum (which was purchased by the restaurant chain in 2008) has boasted concerts by country legend Rodney Crowell, rockers A Perfect Circle, Christian rock stars Jars of Clay, and others.
The Halton Arena has been an integral part of life in and around UNC Charlotte from the time it opened its doors inside the school’s Student Activity Center back in 1996. The venue, which can hold over 9,000 people when it’s fully opened up, is best known as the headquarters for the Charlotte 49ers basketball and volleyball teams. But Halton has also been home to volleyball and women’s basketball tournaments and more. Distinguished by its Richard Hallier statues of athletes on the move, the Arena expanded in the 2000s, when it added a weight room, practice court, hi-res video screen, and other amenities, but the real capper came in 2016 with the arrival of a scoreboard so hi-tech the price tag was reported at no less than $900,000. It isn’t all sports at the Halton, either — concerts by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Bob Dylan, and Counting Crows have graced its stage, and it’s hosted events like the school’s annual International Festival.
With its status as the center of all things NASCAR, the Charlotte Motor Speedway holds a special place in the hearts of racing fans. Built by NASCAR mogul Bruton Smith back in 1959, it opened its doors the following year. Since then, the Speedway has been the spot for countless major NASCAR events, among other mighty races. The mile-and-a-half quad oval track has been the site for some of the biggest races around, including the Coca-Cola 600 and the NASCAR All-Star Race. The Speedway also encompasses the quarter-mile drag-racing strip known as the zMAX Dragway as well as The Dirt Track , where the World of Outlaws World Finals take place. The Speedway literally features more events than there are days in the year, going beyond races to include the biggest car shows as well as top-tier concerts. It’s played host to the hard-rocking Carolina Rebellion festival, with acts like Kid Rock, ZZ Top, Anthrax, and many more commanding the stage; over the years everybody from Lynyrd Skynyrd to country stars Big & Rich has graced the Speedway’s stage.
This University City amphitheater has been a go-to spot for concerts ever since its opening in 1991. Back then it was known as the Blockbuster Pavilion, but these days it’s the PNC Music Pavilion, hosting artists from across the spectrum of music genres and countless summer tours. Between the seats under the pavilion, on the lawn, and in general admission, the amphitheater can hold 19,500 fans. That capacity comes in handy when the pavilion hosts classic-rock titans like Paul McCartney and Bob Seger, country royalty like Luke Bryan and the Zac Brown Band, metal master Ozzy Osbourne, jam-band giants Phish and Dave Matthews Band, and countless others, letting you soak up the sweet Charlotte air while legends take the stage.
When the AvidxChange Music Factory opened for business in 2006 it made a major change in the nightlife of downtown Charlotte. The all-encompassing entertainment complex includes multiple options for concerts, comedy, food, drink, and pure, unadulterated partying. The jewel of the Music Factory’s concert venues is the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre. Between its elevated lawn and its reserved seating, the amphitheater has a capacity of 3,000 for its concerts. And since its opening in 2009, hordes of music lovers have turned out to see blues-rock heroes like Tedeschi Trucks Band and Gov’t Mule, classic-rock icons like Gregg Allman, hip-hop goddess Lauryn Hill, and plenty of others. Add in the atmosphere of the city skyline and the availability of box seats and a VIP area, and the amphitheater really is all things to all concertgoers.
There’s a whole lot of local history connected to the Ovens Auditorium. Located next to its sister venue Bojangles’ Coliseum on Independence Blvd., the Auditorium opened in 1955 with a capacity of nearly 2,500. There was a lot less coming through Charlotte back then, and the Auditorium helped open up the city to all kinds of events, from car shows to symphonies, not to mention ballets, concerts, operas, and fashion shows. Back in the ’50s it was a site of the famous Billy Graham Crusades, and in subsequent decades the auditorium has been Charlotte’s go-to spot for kids’ events like Disney Live and The Backyardigans, hit musicals like Wicked, and countless concerts. You want to talk major music names? Try The Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, B.B. King, Alice Cooper — they’ve all played at Ovens over the years, and the killer concerts keep on coming.
A Hamilton St. site that was once a textile mill has been home to the funky-but-fabulous vibe of The Fillmore Charlotte since 2009. The 2,000-capacity venue is part of the cornucopia of entertainment options in the AvidxChange Music Factory complex, alongside spots for comedy, food, drink, and more. The Fillmore franchise has had a heady place in rock history ever since its New York and San Francisco sites helped define the counterculture in the ’60s and ’70s. Today, the Charlotte location continues in that grand tradition, with its décor, old-school posters, and eye-popping chandeliers contributing to the classic Fillmore feel. The eclectic roster of artists does the same, of course. The club has hosted legends like Motörhead and Foreigner, as well as top-tier indie artists like neo-R&B outfit St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Americana heroes Greensky Bluegrass, and folk-rock phenoms Lake Street Dive.
The Underground is the fiery little-brother venue of The Fillmore Charlotte in the AvidxChange Music Factory on Hamilton St. Opened by The Fillmore in 2016, it sports a smaller capacity than its elder sibling (750) and is strictly a standing-room affair. It’s the kind of place for rocking out with abandon while you catch cutting-edge punk, metal, alt rock, and indie-pop bands. The Underground features regional artists as well as national names, and the idea of local sourcing extends to everything from the art on the walls to the craft beers coming out of the taps. Sometimes you can catch long-established acts like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or The Gin Blossoms at The Underground, but more often it’s the place to go when you want to hear who’s up and coming.
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