CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Bobcats got their first
up-close look at the team's new arena. Now, they just have to get
used to the nuances of a building that gives fans a literal window
into their work.
The glaring sun poured through the wall of windows on one side
of their street-level practice court Tuesday while a constant
stream of fans pressed against the glass to watch the team's first
work out in the downtown arena.
A group of school children ended up with front-row seats to
watch Emeka Okafor spend an extra 45 minutes on the court after
practice. The kids pushed their noses against the windows, snapped
pictures and waved frantically to get Okafor's attention -- to no
So far, the Bobcats, who finished 18-64 in their inaugural
season last year, aren't worried opponents will also try to sneak a
peek at their practices.
"When we get to that point where they are that concerned about
us, that's a good thing," coach Bernie Bickerstaff joked.
The arena officially opened last Friday with a Rolling Stones
concert, and the Bobcats used Tuesday to make their move into the
building. The first game is scheduled for Nov. 5.
The move gives the team a home base after they spent all of last
season playing games in the suburban Charlotte Coliseum and
practiced 30 minutes away in a dark, old gym in Fort Mill, S.C.
The dated facilities shocked Okafor, who was used to first-class
amenities while playing college ball at Connecticut.
"My college locker room was 10 times better than the pro one
(at the Coliseum)," he said. "I was like `Damn, what's going on
here? This was supposed to be a step up.' "
The Bobcats never attempted to settle into the Coliseum, the
home of the Hornets before they moved to New Orleans. The biggest
update was a coat of orange paint on top of the purple and teal the
Hornets had used in the corridors. But they never even hung
nameplates over the Bobcats' lockers and everything always had a
Everything is permanent now, with updated locker rooms and a
lounge for players. The players will also eventually have total
access and the ability to pop in for late-night workouts.
The Bobcats play one final preseason game in the Coliseum on
Wednesday night and will never have to go back again.
"I am ready to get out of there," guard Brevin Knight said.
"We don't have any feel of home in there. This is now our home and
it feels great."
Bickerstaff said it will take time for everyone to learn the
shortcuts both inside and outside of the building.
"The walk to the locker room took me longer than the drive
here," Okafor joked.
The Bobcats are the first sports team to operate in the heart of
Charlotte's downtown. The NFL's Carolina Panthers are also in the
city, but their stadium is isolated from foot traffic.