New management, new ideas create momentum for change at Crown Ce - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

New management, new ideas create momentum for change at Crown Center

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After one month of new management at Fayetteville's Crown Center, the new general manager says there are already noticeable changes, including big show announcements.

Hoping to ride a wave of momentum, some county leaders are proposing new efforts to attract sit-down restaurants and an on-site hotel to the Crown area.

New Management

The Global Spectrum company took over on November 1 after county leaders decided to seek an outside management company. The Crown recently announced Fantasia will be performing at the complex theater in February and Darius Rucker will perform in the coliseum in April. General Manager James J. Grafstrom, Jr. said attracting those shows was a direct result of connections Global Spectrum has with promoters.

"It's our job to provide first-rate family entertainment, and that's what we're going to do," Grafstrom said.  "We're going to lean on our resources. We're going to develop our relationships with our promoters and kind of cultivate those relationships and get people doing shows again here in Fayetteville."

Grafstrom said so far no jobs have been eliminated at the Crown, with the exception of one marketing job. He said Global Spectrum is now working with the employees to improve customer service and public perceptions at the Crown.

"We have a lot of strong support from Global Spectrum, and a lot of our corporate initiatives are there, and we're rolling them out here in Fayetteville," Grafstrom said. "As we do people are going to see dramatic improvement."

Proposed special district for surrounding area

While Global Spectrum focuses on bringing events to the complex, some county leaders are thinking about ways to improve what is around the complex. Those ideas will be part of a proposal on Thursday during a meeting of the policy committee of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners.

Council member Jimmy Keefe will make the proposal, but the ideas within it have already been discussed by members of the county's Civic Center Commission, which advises commissioners on matters concerning the Crown.

"We want to create an atmosphere here where [the public] can come enjoy more, have food, and stay longer," said Civic Center Commission Chairman George Turner. "That's what we want. It has to be an experience, not just a show."

To make that experience happen, the proposal calls for a coliseum-tourism overlay district around the Crown complex. That basically means the Civic Center Commission and supporters of the idea such as Keefe, would like to restrict what types of businesses can locate in the area. The ultimate goal is to attract more sit-down restaurants and an on-site hotel that could make the center more attractive for conventions.

The idea is to make the area a destination where people will come not just for a show, but before and after a show too.

"We want to improve what is around the Coliseum so those that do come and visit will come and experience more fun by not just coming to a show and then going home, but they'll be able to come and go to the restaurants and that sort of thing," Turner said. "It'll be more of an experience."

If members of the policy committee like the idea, they will have an opportunity to recommend it to the full board, which could then get county planners working on the process to implement the zoning overlay district. The proposal also recommends coordination with the City of Fayetteville because some of the property involved is within the city limits.

Turner said the Civic Center Commission has also discussed creating a new entrance that would make the coliseum more visible. He said he would like the county cut down trees on a wooded lot between the Crown theater and the Waffle House on U.S. Highway 301. Not only would that create the opportunity for a more high-profile entrance, it would also make the complex's biggest venue more visible from the highway.

Turner said no existing businesses near the Crown would be closed because of the proposed change. He said if the overlay is put in place it could take several years for it to result in noticeable changes around the Crown.

Ultimately, efforts to improve the Crown Center come down to improving quality of life in the Fayetteville area, which is the purpose of the complex, said Turner. If the Crown can attract better events, more people will likely enjoy them. That would result in more ticket sales and fewer tax dollars will be needed to support the complex.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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