The Overlook with Matt Peiken

Field Trips | City Facilities Manager Chris Corl

April 15, 2024 Matt Peiken Episode 150
Field Trips | City Facilities Manager Chris Corl
The Overlook with Matt Peiken
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The Overlook with Matt Peiken
Field Trips | City Facilities Manager Chris Corl
Apr 15, 2024 Episode 150
Matt Peiken

Want to know what’s happening with McCormick Field, Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and the Western North Carolina Nature Center? My guest has the answers.

Chris Corl is General Manager and Director of Community & Regional Entertainment Facilities for the City of Asheville. We go into detail about the upcoming trip around the bases for McCormick Field’s renovation, including what’s being done to turn the stadium into a year-round facility. We also go through changes at the nature center, the city’s municipal golf course and how the city managed to patch Thomas Wolfe up enough to get back into business. Will the deeper renovations needed or a completely new facility ever happen? I ask that question too.

SPONSOR: Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance returns for one weekend only with the premiere of "Before the Scream." Performances are July 25-27 at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Show Notes Transcript

Want to know what’s happening with McCormick Field, Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and the Western North Carolina Nature Center? My guest has the answers.

Chris Corl is General Manager and Director of Community & Regional Entertainment Facilities for the City of Asheville. We go into detail about the upcoming trip around the bases for McCormick Field’s renovation, including what’s being done to turn the stadium into a year-round facility. We also go through changes at the nature center, the city’s municipal golf course and how the city managed to patch Thomas Wolfe up enough to get back into business. Will the deeper renovations needed or a completely new facility ever happen? I ask that question too.

SPONSOR: Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance returns for one weekend only with the premiere of "Before the Scream." Performances are July 25-27 at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Matt Peiken: Let's start by telling us where we're at in the timeline for McCormick Field renovations.

Chris Corl: We're finishing design right now but Literally, like the day after the last game, things are going to start moving over at McCormick Field, and we're going to be under construction essentially for two years straight, so we'll work through the first off season, 2025 season will be at reduced capacity in some way, shape, or form while we do construction around baseball.

We'll work through the season, baseball will still exist, we'll work a full offseason, and then we'll open April of 2026 with a renovated stadium. 

Matt Peiken: So all of the renovations happening at McCormick will happen during offseasons? 

Chris Corl: Some will happen during the 2025 season, so that's why we'll have that reduced capacity around baseball.

We're going to try to be working outside of the main seating bowl, in the left field and right field areas but, we'll Really, if we have to affect the total capacity or close a restroom or close a concession stand to keep the project moving, timeline's the most important thing, and the team understands that, so if we have to reduce the total number of tickets they can sell in order to keep the project moving, that's what we're going to do.

Matt Peiken: So describe piece by piece, not granularly necessarily, but what will be different fundamentally about McCormick Field once the renovations are complete? 

Chris Corl: Oh boy So first and foremost, it's going to be major league baseball player development league compliant, which means that it's going to have locker rooms and player facilities that meet just minimum requirements, which we're not even close to right now.

And that means enough lockers for all the players, training space coach and umpire rooms, both for male and female. Right now, we only have shared restrooms and locker rooms. So if we have co ed officials crew, they share a room, which is awkward, right? Yeah. So that'll be the main thing that most people won't see, right?

Because you don't get to go into the player's locker room. We're gonna add a club space, which will be like box suites, but that'll be a 12 month a year space, so that we'll be able to do banquets and other events in that space. There'll be a new scoreboard, new outfield wall, a big picnic area in the left field, along the left field line, which should be good for about 250 people as like a group sales space.

We're going to renovate the existing right field building, which is where the ticket office and main entry is. And it's where the only box suite is currently. So that box suite will continue to exist. The tourist office. Space is in there. It'll be a new team store that'll be renovated. That building will be expanded a bit to allow for a new ticket entry.

And then the gate entry system there right now, you have to come in the stadium, buy your tickets, go back out, come back in to get scanned in. It's really awkward. So there'll be a, I think it's a total of eight gates that'll be available. So you buy your tickets, come in the stadium. The entry Plaza is almost triple the size of what it is currently.

And field improvements, the Drainage, irrigation, playing surface will all be updated. The netting that protects you from getting hit by an errant ball or bat, that's going to be fully replaced and will be extended foul pole to foul pole, which is a new safety requirement by MLB. We'll have some ADA accessible upgrades throughout the seating bowl and We're hoping to work in the ability to renovate every existing bathroom.

That's going to be what we call an ad alternate, just with how the budget is. It's, everything is more expensive than it should be right now. So we're trying to figure out what's going to stay in the budget and what's not going to stay. 

Matt Peiken: You mentioned price, budget. This is a 32 million project. Is that what that's slated for? 

Chris Corl: Total budget on the projects actually 38 million, which includes design and everything. So our construction budget is right around 28 million. Once you factor in what we call FF and E furnitures, fixtures, and equipment design costs. Permitting all the other things that come with it, but we selected a construction manager at risk, which is bloom construction.

That's running point in this project. They're doing a great job so far. We hired them really early back in November. So that as the design team is designing things, we can have the construction manager immediately telling us what the costs are to make sure we don't have any scope creep that gives us a challenge later in the budget.

So that way we're never at a point that we're fully value engineering and we're just value engineering as we go when they say, let's do this in the picnic area. And we're like, Hey, that budget doesn't fit. Let's stop that before you get too far down the line. 

Matt Peiken: Or could it be something where the team could decide we want to add that. So we will foot that bill. Is the city's Investment in this fixed? 

Chris Corl: It is. And actually that's already happened. So originally this was a 37 and a half million dollar project as we got into the club suite and for what is the team's like really sellable asset to like the high end client or like a big business that wants to bring in 50 to a hundred people in that club suite, we were having square footage issues to meet the budget. And so the team shipped in an extra 1 million up front of cash on top of what we had already agreed upon. So it turned it into a 38 and a half million dollar project, which is great. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah. You mentioned that a 12 month aspect in terms of these suites, in tell me if I'm right in this reflects kind of year round programming in McCormick, which was not really available to the community before that. What kind of renovations are being made to the field that would accommodate things that aren't baseball related that are Optimized let's say concerts other types of events? 

Chris Corl: Yeah. So that's a great question. So right now the stadium has to be winterized because of how the piping works. So water doesn't get turned on until a week before the first game, just in case. And then almost immediately after the last game, because we get into October and we have issues. So we're structuring it, all the piping so that the stadium doesn't have to be winterized, which is step one, to be able to do these off season events. The club space will accommodate.

Depending on what our final design lands on somewhere between 75 and 150 people in a banquet reception style event, and it directly connects to the batting cages. So our goal is to be able to do like corporate events that maybe have a lunch and like a little keynote address. And then they have some fun stuff where they can go take like hitting practice and the batting cage or even a birthday party, right?

Like all kinds of fun stuff there. But then. If you're doing an event out on the field, say, and you need like a reprise somewhere indoors in the summer, you can be on the field, go into the club room. We're also adding concert power which is an amazingly high expense just to have, a few thousand extra amps of power available.

But this is, five wire, 400 amp services to be able to plug in concert sound lights so that we can do concerts in the stadium. Hopefully somewhere between 10 and 15 dates a year on the concert side. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah. Right now, Asheville, Rabbit Rabbit is really the only outdoor venue that we have consistently for concerts here.

Chris Corl: Don't forget about Salvage Station. However, they've got some challenges with the I 26 project. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah, and that's going away eventually. Salvage Station is going to vanish with the eminent domain. 

Chris Corl: Yes. And rabbit rabbit out there. I can't remember what the total noise ordinance cap is, but there's a maximum number of shows that any outdoor venue can do.

And they're pretty close to that number already. And so with salvage station moving away, plus the larger capacity of the baseball stadium, I think it's very realistic for us to be able to put 10 plus shows in there a year. And now we committed to the neighborhood not to do more than 15 loud shows a year.

So even though we can do up to 30, some. 

Matt Peiken: So you're not going to be hosting a Slayer residency. Yeah. There is what you're telling me.

Chris Corl: As much fun as that would be. No, I don't think so. 

Matt Peiken: So what would the capacity, the concert capacity be at McCormick field? 

Chris Corl: So our maximum capacity is actually up to 10, 000 people.

We're going to be targeting probably what we would call like a more boutique amphitheater size, somewhere between 4, 500 and 8, 000.

Matt Peiken: One thing we haven't really touched on is the concession area. I know from what I read there's going to be an expanded thing, like of a restaurant environment at least with one one vendor or what are we looking at there? And I asked this too, because it seems like ballparks are becoming more entertainment centers where the game is the central attraction, but a lot of people go there and they shop and they eat. They plan dinners at ballparks and things like that.

Is McCormick field going to reflect that evolution? 

Chris Corl: It's not going to be like what you see at a major league baseball level. If you've been to Atlanta stadium or PNC park in Pittsburgh is a really great example of an amazing ballpark. So restaurant would be a strong word.

Like you're not going to have a sit down space with wait service, but we're expanding the footprint of it's almost doubling the ability for what we call third party vendors to come in that can vend food. So we're expanding the options that are going to be able to be purchased at the stadium by doing so, but you're right.

The baseball is almost secondary anymore at these and same with basketball arenas and even football stadiums. Like the game is the main event clearly, but a lot of the crowd that shows up doesn't see even half of the games anymore. Cause you're doing all these other things, right? 

Matt Peiken: And one of the things too, is You know, like I know that minor league ballparks are having to be more competitive in that way.

When I lived in Minnesota, the St. Paul Saints, the independent team, they have a state of the art stadium. You wouldn't believe the offerings in there and the store. It's a huge glamorous store for the St. Paul Saints. And and they're an unaffiliated minor league team. I was wondering if McCormick Field looking at what else is happening, what is the shelf life of this renovated stadium to not need to be updated again. 

Chris Corl: The goal is that shelf life being at least 23 years, which is the length of our lease. And ideally closer to 30. The lease is technically up to 33 years, but the initial term is 23, 30 is our debt service on the project.

We're trying to keep. That historic feel. I don't know the classic feel of the stadium, right? Like you go into some of these and it's more entertainment than baseball. This stadium currently is more baseball than entertainment. That's going to be cyclical, right? So keeping the ability to be more classic, more baseball focused. If you go there on a thirsty Thursday night, like sure, there's people just hanging out, having beer and just like talking to their friends, but they're still paying attention to the game. And so I think that's never going to leave, especially at the Low A level where it is, but if the team for some reason bumps up to a double A or triple A, we're going to need to do something to have more entertainment around just because of what the fan expects with that level of baseball. 

But I think realistically we're building things mostly to the major league baseball pdl standard minimums in a lot of cases because we've told the Astros if they want to go over and above the minimum requirement, we need you to chip in. And so far in every area where that would be, they didn't want to add extra dollars.

So we'll probably stay in that low a level, which fits for our market size, but we could go up. It's always a possibility. 

Matt Peiken: And is there potential for other revenue within that field that the city has not seen before for the city to be able to help recoup costs?

Chris Corl: Definitely. So that the extra events is first and foremost, right? The team has the right to bring in an event, own that event fully and operate it. All concerts are going to be owned by the city and or our co promotion partners, which are the same that we use at the Harrah's Cherokee Center Asheville.

And we would own 50 percent of that revenue from the concerts if we're partnering with these other groups. And then the bar, the concessions, the team has to split with us 50, 50 on the ancillary events. So that's new money to the city. That's not factored into our debt service plan. So that's extra money that can go towards paying off the loan earlier or towards other future improvements that we might need at this time.

Let's be real. Once we do the first four or five concerts, we're going to be like, we need this, and this to do this better and make more money. And then by being able to turn that money back into the stadium, we'll be able to keep that cycle moving and not have a big lift like this one, hopefully in the future.

Matt Peiken: And this is just one of the, now it's the major project you have going. There are a few other things. The Western North Carolina nature center is another thing. Tell me about what's happening there and renovations are imminent. And what's happening? 

Chris Corl: Yeah. So we're bidding that project. It's the gateway to the Southern Appalachias is what we're calling it.

And we'll be bidding that project here in the next couple of weeks. It's roughly a 1. 3 million project. And if you've been to the nature center, we renovated the front entrance a few years back. So you come in, you go in. And there's a barn and then you're in the farmyard. And so the space that we're working on is that farmyard area.

So we've updated the entry, but if you go to any large zoo, sea world, Disney world, whatever, you go through the ticket area and then you get to this big plaza and it's that's where I'm going to plan my day and figure out what I'm going to do, right? And we don't have that at the nature center and it's not huge, but it's big enough that you want to figure out how you want to route through and how much time you have.

So this space will be updated. It'll move the barn animals onto the hillside, which are mostly goats and they're climbers. And they like that anyway. And it creates this grand view over black bear, which is like the fundamental animal for Western North Carolina wildlife, right? That's what everybody thinks of.

And then on the right, as you're walking in, we're going to be adding a butterfly garden and a small little greenhouse that we'll be able to grow chrysalises in and do some programs around pollinators and butterfly. And it's another step in the 2010 20 year master plan, which we're 14, 15 years into, which this will allow us to then move forward with the next step, which is redoing black bear.

And there's a wooden boardwalk that's not quite ADA accessible now that we hope to update to make a full 360 route through the park that's fully ADA accessible. Right now we're grandfathered in a couple spots. And the beauty of this plaza space that we're We'll work day to day as that like entry, like grand feel moment for the guests is that in the evenings, the friends of the nature center or nature center staff are going to be able to program that with events and it won't affect the animals, which is nice.

Cause it's before you're getting into most of the animal space, but it'll also have direct view to the barnyard, the pollinator space and bear. So without having to pull the animals out or affect them in times they're not used to people, we can program the space and generate more revenue towards the future.

Matt Peiken: The commonality we're talking about here between McCormick and the Nature Center is that there are a lot of other uses now that I imagine weren't even on the minds of the original people who founded the nature center. What has evolved in terms of the use of the nature center? 

Chris Corl: So the friends of the nature center has really grown as a nonprofit that supports the nature center for the, for example, this 1. 3 million project, they're putting 300, 000 in a little over $550,000 coming from the tourism development authority. And then the city is covering the balance, which is a similar across all three of these projects that we're talking about. That's a similar model, right? The TDA city, and then a third party, but The staff at the Nature Center over the years, in conjunction with the Friends, has seen this opportunity. They started what's called Bears and Brews, which is like a beer tasting thing in the evening at the Nature Center once a month in the summer a few years back, and it's been really successful.

And The fundraising that has come from that has made everybody realize like we need to do more events and they have corporations that come out and they're like, we want to do like a employee picnic. We don't have space to put 50 employees, right? But by doing this, we will. And so that we can have your employee picnic in the evening.

And if we do tours that go down through the park, The animals are really active as the sun's going down. Just think in your neighborhood. That's when you see the 

Matt Peiken: bear trash exhibit, the bear going through the trash exhibition happens in the middle of the night. 

Chris Corl: The city tests the trash cans with our bear.

Like they bring them out. Oh, they do. Yeah. Check the city's Insta page. You'll see it every once in a while. There's a new trash can being tested and our bear tends to get in pretty easily. 

Matt Peiken: That's really hysterical to me. I like the idea that of the bear looking forward to the day. Oh, I'm going to break through this thing.

So now we've talked a lot about the nature center, about enhancing the user experience in a way that wouldn't affect the animals, or at least minimally affect them, what's being done or is anything being done to expand wildlife offerings at the nature center? 

Chris Corl: Yeah. So we've had a lot of new animals come on exhibit this year, a lot of young cubs and in fact, two cub mountain lions are coming out in the next week or so, which will be amazing. But Red Panda a few years ago was added in. So there's WNC Nature Center's focusing on animals in Western North Carolina, right? Red Panda is clearly not out here now, but in the prehistoric times it was.

So we have current nature, right? And then you have what we're calling, it's the Appalachian stream. So that's like your turtles, your hellbender, salamanders, snakes, amphibians, and then this prehistoric realm, which would include groups like anteater and rhino and red panda. And so The long term is to continue adding exhibits like that.

And there's plenty of footprint in space. And to do that, we have to do all these other infrastructure needs. Like we recently updated the animals commissary, which is where we prepare their food, moved it to a new location with help from the friends of the nature center who contributed a little over a hundred thousand dollars to that project, built that space. So we have this new commissary, we moved the vet clinic away from the front entry area so that we could then do these expansions to help do these corporate picnics. So it's all working together and tied to this master plan that's from 2010. And, Governments do master plans quite often and they work for a while and then they steer away from them.

This is a prime example of a master plan that was put into place. That's still being followed almost 15 years later, like the nature center and the friends of the nature center team are doing an amazing job out there staying with that plan. 

Matt Peiken: Another big project you're doing, or at least, I don't know how big, but the municipal golf course. What's that project about? 

Chris Corl: Yeah. So that project slightly bigger than the nature center project, actually, it's about 2. 9 million in total funding that we've received so far. We had a goal of 3. 2. That's funded 1. 6 million roughly through the tourism development authority, a million through the city.

And then the rest we've pieced together with small grants, Public private donations and really lots of movement there. We've actually gotten 60, 000 from the Donald Ross society foundation. So we're restoring that course to the original Donald Ross design. So he's a world famous golf designer and golfer.

That course was the first integrated golf course in the Southeast and home to the only surviving black owned and operated professional golf tournament in the country. So there's a lot of history there. And it got into disrepair with the previous operator that was leased. They leased the course from city parks and rec.

And so we, the city had very little control over what they did. So we changed the agreement, got a new operator in. So we have an actual management risk in that. So we have say in what happens, but also we take risk return. So if it loses money, we're going to lose money. But if it makes it, we're going to make it, which gives us investment and the operator investment.

So we have redone all 18 sets of tees, all 18 greens. We've regrassed multiple fairways. By the time we're done in May, we'll have restored a hundred percent of the original design bunkers, which are the sand traps. We've removed bunkers and sand traps that did not exist in the original design that just got added over time.

And we're fixing just about three quarters of a mile of stormwater piping that's coming, it's catching water from the Beverly Hills neighborhood on the golf course and getting it to the Swannanoa River, which had failed. There were numerous sinkholes and other challenges. We've repaired or replaced. All 18 holes worth of golf cart paths. There was some really damaged areas. We did remove a good bit of trees. 

I cannot find anywhere else in the country that's doing this, but we're going to be starting a tree nursery program there. So on some of the ancillary space around golf, we're planting trees in conjunction with Asheville greenworks.

So our first set is going in this fall. It's going to be about 125 trees, I believe. And so those will cycle out. And as they grow, they'll get dug up and they'll be replanted and donated to municipal governments, nonprofits in Buncombe County, and all at cost or free. And that way we can keep cycling trees through there.

So we may have removed roughly a hundred trees. But over the next decade, we're going to create over a thousand trees to help the canopy throughout the community. 

Matt Peiken: Wow. And will these trees be like grown off of away from the fairways or just blended in with the trees that are existing there?

Chris Corl: So they're in a couple of different sites that we worked with greenworks to figure out, but the first one, for example, is going to be off of number 17 fairway. So there's the fairway, the golf cart path, and then the tree nursery. So it's in what you would call the rough. And so we'll plant them there and grow them, move them out.

I'm really excited about that because I truly think we're like the first golf course in the country to do it. And municipal golf courses have so much available land that's not used that if we can do this and start growing that project, it can become something really cool. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah. I think a criticism of golf courses in general is that they use resources a lot, use a ton of water and the cutting down trees. So I am surprised that there's an effort here to give back in a sense or to replace the trees that were taken. 

Chris Corl: It makes sense. Like Asheville's a tree friendly area.

Like we do have a golf course and it needs to operate as a golf course. Hadn't been taken care of for so long. These trees just grew in. And so by removing them, I understand that's not the best thing in Asheville. But we can plant more and then make it a long term thing that over time we're actually producing trees for the community.

Trees are only going to get more expensive and harder to plant. And we worked with our city arborists and said, what trees do you need? And those are the types of trees that we're going to be planting. So it's not going to be just a sea of dogwoods. It's going to be a mix of the types of trees they need throughout the community.

Matt Peiken: You mentioned that the course itself is being restored to its original with the bunkers, taking out sand traps that weren't part of the original. How old is this course? 

Chris Corl: I was open in 1927. 

Matt Peiken: Wow, so almost a century. So what's the significance? I think that's great to return to the original. Why is that important? 

Chris Corl: So Donald Ross courses were all designed in the teens to thirties, so they're all getting pretty old and over time, course operators, owners, country clubs renovated and changed them based on how the play has changed, right? So back then they didn't have golf carts. They had what they called hickory shaft clubs.

So like they couldn't hit the ball as far. And so golf has changed a lot in that century. But there's very few courses that are the original design and a bonus of ours not really being taken care of for decades was that we didn't do a lot of changes over the years because we didn't have money to do it.

And so restoring it back to original was a lot less expensive here than many other Donald Ross courses. And so it provides this destination, which is again, a goal, like we want to bring in visitors to use this course to help supplement local rates. So we want local rates to stay down by using visitor rates at higher rates and having a reason for them to want to come to Asheville and play this course specifically because it is what Donald Ross designed. It all ties together, right? 

Matt Peiken: Yeah. Lastly, Thomas Wolfe auditorium is a, as a big thing. I know you've said, told me there's not much movement, but some things have happened, some repairs have happened. Talk about what's been repaired so far. 

Chris Corl: Yeah. So we reopened March 16th with a nearly sold out show and no issues and we're plugging forward, right?

We got a lot of dates moving, but we have not fully repaired yet the HVAC system, but we've repaired it enough to be able to do full capacity shows. We updated about 150 feet of sewer lines that had failed over time, renovated two restrooms, renovated the lower lobby. There's Restrooms in that lower lobby of the Thomas Wolf tie in with the arena and so they're used for both buildings. So it made sense to really get into that.

We did some plaster repair. We did some seat cleaning. It's not going to look tremendously different when you come in. So I don't want people to think that we like did this grand renovation cause we didn't, we repaired things, we upgraded these three spaces, the lobby and the two restrooms. And then we just did a lot of cleaning and really tried to like, get it back up to snuff. But the building's old, right? So it still has a lot of the same look to it for sure. 

Matt Peiken: By doing these repairs, does this in a way open up room to forestall more significant renovations? Like I can see where I would patched it up, we're getting people back in, and we're having events and to do the renovations that need to be happening, it's going to cost many millions of dollars and gosh, we just can't do it. Let's just keep patching it back together. Is that a very real possibility? 

Chris Corl: Certainly, right? Like it, it has been in the past. This is just the first time it got so bad that we had to close. Which I think really kickstarted some momentum. Like I've been a part, this is probably my fourth time that this has risen up of we got to do something about the Wolfe. And this is the first time I didn't realize that those other three times, but this is the first time that it feels real.

Those other times I thought it felt real, but it turns out it wasn't even close to real. 

Matt Peiken: You mean in terms of just because you actually had to close this time? 

Chris Corl: Yeah, I think that's what like kicked it off with like certain elected officials, just community members. Like we've got like large business owners that are reaching out that are saying like, Hey, I want to help make it happen this time. In the past, it's been the city needs to get off the duff and do this. But now we're getting like private individuals, other government agencies, like state representatives reaching out like, Hey, how do we do this? We want to make this happen this time. Cause it needs to happen, which is different. 

Matt Peiken: Now McCormick field to date is the most expensive, most ambitious project by the city. Renovating Thomas Wolfe would dwarf McCormick Field, wouldn't it? 

Chris Corl: It would triple or quadruple it, yes. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah, and you're saying there's a lot of support. People and businesses are rallying around. What would need to happen to make renovations something like, Yes, we can schedule this, we can Put a timeline on this?

Chris Corl: We've had a lot of conversations with groups in Charlotte, Durham, Atlanta other groups that have successfully Pieced something like this together. And so what I've learned in the last six nine months is Complication is key, which is surprising.

Like I, for the last X number of years, I was always trying to like, how do we make this deal as simple as possible to get this through? And what I'm learning is that the more hands that are in the deal, the better chance it doesn't fall apart. So even if it's super complicated and there's 20 different entities and everybody has a little piece in, it's a lot harder for the deal to fall apart if one group backs out.

So the long winded answer to that is getting as many different agencies involved as possible financially and just like publicly committed to, we want to do something. And it doesn't necessarily have to be a renovation of the Wolfe, it could be like, we should build a new theater performing arts center somewhere else in town, and then change the Wolfe to support the arena, right? I'm not saying that's going to happen, but it could be anywhere from renovate slash do nothing to the Wolfe to that and anywhere in between. And it's really going to depend on what groups really want to get in and not. And it can't just be the city and the symphony.

Matt Peiken: Yeah. I can imagine that on one hand, by having a number of groups, you said the more that are in, the likelihood that this will happen, there's more buy in, but doesn't that also put more chefs in the kitchen, everybody with a voice and a different idea about what needs to happen? 

Chris Corl: I had a really similar question to somebody that just did a 85 million project in Charlotte with the Carolina Theater. And the answer was yes, that's true. If they don't have buy in and they don't get to have an opinion, why do they want to give you money? 

Matt Peiken: But so it comes with a condition. So yes, we need the money. Yes. We want your money now. Okay. What do you want to say about this? 

Chris Corl: The Asheville Lyric Opera is too small to play in a room our size, but let's say the opera group was big enough. If we want to come to them and say, Hey, can you chip in a million dollars or whatever? Like they're going to want guaranteed X number of dates to do shows. So like how many different pieces can you put together for something like that? Or if it's a, let's pick on Duke energy, right?

If Duke wants to support the facility, they need to give us X number of dollars per year for so many years. And what can we provide? Maybe it's the Duke energy stage or whatever it is, right? We need to be able to give and take and it becomes like a weird private sector style deal done by the city in conjunction With quasi with the TDA like it can just get really complicated really quickly, but apparently that's what leads to success. 

Matt Peiken: Oh, so in the meantime, you're back to throwing events. Do you just hold your breath every event to make sure nothing happens tonight?

Chris Corl: So we've only had one since we reopened, but yes, I went like in and out of the seats, probably five times just to make sure it was comfortable. And it was actually like borderline chilly a couple of times. Yeah, like I, the Wolfe had been like that for a couple of years and I was always like, what's going to break?

You didn't know what it was going to be, but it was always going to be something. And everything went off splendidly with our first show. We expected that it's been nine months. We figured somebody would forget how to do their job, and it would really affect the show, right? And it just, it was great, and it was a good night.

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