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One Persons Treasure

by Mark Peres

July 4,2005

I took a hard hat tour of the new arena. Along with a group of a dozen fellow Leadership Charlotte classmates, I stepped over debris and avoided construction workers while gazing at what the arena will soon be. What we saw was completely unfinished. No flat panel televisions. No chair back seats. No dazzling colors and electronics. Just glimpses of tiled art and concrete. But what art and concrete it was. It displayed a grand and intimate venue for a new sporting life of experience and memory.

Days later my wife and I began purging stuff from our home. Every year, sometime in late spring or early summer, we take another look at what we’ve stored in closets, in the attic and crawl space. Boxes of comic books stay, brochures from old businesses go. T-shirts from college go into one pile, old gifts and knickknacks into another. We’ll take a car load to Goodwill and feel better for what we can give to others and for the lightness of being that uncluttered space provides. We narrow down to clean lines and balance – no more and no less – and detach from things that weigh us down.

This year our spring cleaning has taken on greater priority. We love our house, our street, our neighborhood. We’ve been invested in the vision and rhythms of our community since we first saw the elevations and blueprints in our realtor’s office. What we have come to love even more is an experience of life that is more intangible. Freeing ourselves of overhead gives us breathing space for moment and memory.

Which brings me back to the arena. In childhood days that seemed not too ago, I insisted that Bart Starr and the Packers were better than the unbeaten Dolphins, that Muhammad Ali would win and Joe Frazier would lose, and the Rangers would one day beat the Canadians for the Stanley Cup. Later, with tickets in hand (that are likely still stored in a box in the attic), I saw Doug Flutie throw his Hail Mary pass against my hometown ‘Canes, Kellen Winslow catch 13 passes against the ‘Fins in the ’81 playoffs, and Dan Marino pass to Nat Moore on a magical Monday night against the ’85 Chicago Bears. In the ‘90s, I rooted for Mourning, Riley and the Heat in their great bruising battles against the Knicks, and the Marlins as they became the youngest expansion team to win it all. This century, in Charlotte, we cheered the Panthers’ heart-stopping 2003 run, and last year’s Bobcats as they launched a tradition all their own.

As the new arena takes shape, the promise of its future is not in its physical features and amenities, but in the memorable drama that it will host. The premium seating and theme restaurants, the raise-the-roof fan zones and dazzling scoreboards, all make it a place that will attract our energy and civic pride. But what will make it memorable are the last second shots, the once-in-a-lifetime concerts, and cheering wildly beside friends. It is experience (and what will rise to legend) that we remember.

One day, as the coliseum and the old convention center have proven true, the arena will become dust. It will become obsolete as many building do, as dated as any other technology. Not all buildings should last. Few rise to the level of art worth keeping beyond their use. The arena will become a ruin as surely as dust gathers on the boxes and knickknacks in our attics. We will dispose of it as we dispose of any other creation, giving it away as meaning fades.

Our home is not a house. Our home is where our family is together, where we feel safe and valued, where stories mount to history. That is the same prescription for the Boston Celtics, the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is the same prescription for the Charlotte Bobcats in the new arena. They will not be at home because of the views between floors and the ledge seats and terrace tables, but because of the sweat that will drip on the court and the fans that will embrace them after a loss. It is the time within that lasts forever.

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