The Bobcats are no strangers to playing 'home' games outside of their normal arena in Charlotte, taking to a number of arenas in North and South Carolina in preseason games. Last year they played the Thunder in Fayetteville. This year they've played in Charleston and are approaching a sell-out in Raleigh for the exhibition game against the Heat on Tuesday.
This has been an important initiative for the Bobcats because of the market's size and competition with college sports. Preference between professional and college basketball is personal taste, but when college sports have a leg up with proximity, then getting that foothold across the state in towns like Chapel Hill and Durham is going to take more effort even with a product that boasts better players and a higher level of play.
As the Bobcats game at the PNC Arena nears sell-out territory, that's a pretty solid indicator that a regular season game in Raleigh could do well. And Bobcats executives have recognized this.
"Down the line we wouldn't rule out a regular-season contest in an alternate market," chief marketing officer Pete Guelli told the Charlotte Observer Thursday. "If we see the response as the team starts to improve, if that's really going to help us from a marketing perspective, that's something we'd consider."
Guelli was previously an influential figure within the Buffalo Bills organization and played a big part of the NFL team branching out to playing games in Toronto, a significant strategy to tap into an open market. With the Bobcats he wants to do the same, and not just with preseason exhibition games.
But unlike the preseason games, regular season games would require a higher quality stadium than that of Charleston or Fayetteville. They must be able to hold a regular season NBA game and a bigger crowd. PNC Arena can certainly do that. The Observer also posits that there are two other arenas that could host an NBA regular season game: Greensboro Coliseum and the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill.
These are two sites I find very intriguing. Greensboro is the 69th biggest city in America by population and has a ton of colleges located in and around it. And having a game at Chapel Hill also helps connect with the young adult demographic, and it doesn't hurt having a game in a town that's pretty affluent.
Looking at Primary Statistical Areas across America, North Carolina places decently well in size. Charlotte/Gastonia/Salisbury is the 25th-largest PSA, Raleigh/Durham/Cary is 34th, and Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point is 39th.
The team is allowed two games outside of its normal home arena. It is imperative that the Bobcats expand their reach to these secondary markets. TV coverage still has ground to make up in these regards as well, but I see no better direct way to do that than bringing the Bobcats to these other big Carolina markets.