City launches survey on Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovation

Thomas Wolfe Auditorium exterior



The City of Asheville is launching a community survey to inform the future design of Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. During the next few months, U.S. Cellular Center staff will engage the public as well as faculty stakeholders to determine how to best update the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium to meet community and patron needs.


The survey, which will be open from June 19-30, is available at this link. Hard copies of the survey  will also be available in the City of Asheville Recreation centers.


Once complete, the survey results will be given to the design team, led by Earl Swennson Associates Architects, for their consideration as they draft programming and conceptual designs for Thomas Wolfe Auditorium updates.


“This is a great opportunity for us to hear what our community wants to see from potential renovations,” said USCC General Manager Chris Corl. “It’s important that we give our residents a voice in this project.”


Renovation of Thomas Wolfe Auditorium will a long-term project. Staff estimate it will take two to four years to secure financing, followed by two years of construction/renovation of the  site.


To complete the project, there will require a significant community based collaboration in funding.  Potential partners in project funding.

  • Capital project funds City of Asheville
  • Harrah’s Cherokee naming rights revenue
  • Additional sponsorships
  • Private sector donations
  • Other governmental agencies


“We are inviting the public to become a part of the conversation regarding the renovations of Thomas Wolfe Auditorium  into a state-of-the-art venue, that hosts the Asheville Symphony, national touring acts, and major stage  productions,” said Corl.


About the Asheville Civic Center


First opened in 1975, Thomas Wolfe Auditorium has a seating capacity of 2,431. The auditorium is the home of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra and has hosted such acts as BB King, Willie Nelson, Jerry Seinfeld, even Elvis Presley, and many other nationally renowned musicians, dance and opera companies and stage plays.


In July 2018, the City of Asheville Finance Committee approved a process to explore licensing agreements with respect to the naming of the Civic Center.  The current naming rights are licensed to U.S. Cellular Inc. as the U.S. Cellular Center. City staff’s goal was “to contract a licensing agreement with a notable company or individual that is culturally and socially compatible with the local community.”


Asheville City Council voted 6 to 1  May 28 to accept an offer for a 5- to 10-year naming rights agreement with Harrah’s Cherokee for the Civic Center. The new agreement will replace the existing contract with U.S. Cellular that expires Dec. 31, 2019. The vote concludes a year-long effort to explore licensing agreements with respect to the naming of the Civic Center property.  This vote signals a significant interest in exploring moving forward with renovation to the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.


Harrah’s Cherokee, a wholly owned instrumentality of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, offers a total term potential of $5.75 million over up to 10 years. It includes annual naming license fee for both the Civic Center, the Civic Center Parking Garage, and $750,000 in funds specifically dedicated to fan experience improvements such as public Wi-Fi and digital video display infrastructure installation. The offer also includes full reimbursement of up to $250,000 for signage and branding transition to replace existing signage and branding to display the new facility name.