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Crown Event Center delay: Will it cancel concerts, comedy and other shows?

County has October 2025 deadline to comply with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements


The 18-month delay in the projected opening date of the Crown Event Center planned for downtown Fayetteville creates a question: Will the concerts, comedy shows and other events that have been held at the Cumberland County Crown Complex’s Theatre and Arena on U.S. 301 cease coming to Fayetteville for more than a year and a half?

The answer, based on interviews with two county commissioners and information from the Cumberland County staff, is unclear.

The potential problem stems from the planned closing date of Oct. 31, 2025, for the Arena and the Theatre. The Event Center was originally expected to pick up the shows by opening Nov. 1, 2025.

But the event center’s completion date, project managers have told the county, is now tracking to be 18 months later than anticipated, April 2027.

Why can’t the Arena and Theatre stay open in the interim?

Because Oct. 31, 2025, is a deadline for Cumberland County to either bring the Arena and Theatre into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act or to shut them down. The deadline came out of a lawsuit that a wheelchair-using Fayetteville resident filed against the county in February 2014. Jackie Blue was frustrated when trying to attend her daughter’s graduation, concerts and other events at the Crown Coliseum, the Crown Expo Center, the Crown Arena and the Crown Theatre, her lawsuit says.

Blue’s lawsuit says she couldn’t use restrooms, had trouble getting through doors, encountered a lack of handicapped-accessible seating, and she had other challenges getting around on the property and in the buildings.

To settle the lawsuit, the county commissioners in December 2015 promised to make all of the Crown facilities ADA compliant within seven years — by December 2022, a deadline that has now passed.

Following the settlement, the county made upgrades at the Crown Complex. But the county also decided it would be better to replace the Theatre and the Arena rather than try to improve the old buildings. (The Arena and Theatre were built in the late 1960s.)

As the county pursued a replacement for the Arena and Theatre, it got the ADA compliance deadline extended to 2025.

Can the deadline be extended?

It’s uncertain whether the county can move the deadline further as it builds the new Event Center.

“The county is currently evaluating options to address the potential gap between the current deadline to close the existing Crown Theatre and Arena and the projected completion of the new Crown Event Center,” Assistant County Manager Brian Haney said. “At this time, however, no decisions have been made regarding seeking an extension of the deadline.”

County Commissioner Jimmy Keefe, who has been the leading advocate and evangelist for the new downtown Event Center, thinks the deadline could be adjusted so the Arena and Theatre can stay open until the Event Center opens. 

“There’s talk right now about requesting an extension,” he said. “We feel like if we can show good faith that we’re in the process of building, then that might help our case to extend beyond the deadline that we have.

“Worst case scenario, we get shuttered for some time. Whatever it is. But we are actively pursuing an extension.”

Commissioners Chairman Glenn Adams said the Event Centers plans are being revised, and in the end, there may be no delayed opening date.

“We’ve cut the building down,” he said. “It may change the completion date.”

The county commissioners told the designers to reduce the scope of the Event Center project after cost estimates jumped from $131.7 million to $163.5 million. Now the designers are directed to hold it at $145 million.

The project managers on Jan. 23 reported the April 2027 completion date when they said they could keep the project at $145 million.

In the meantime, the Theatre has appearances this year with numerous entertainers. These include gospel singer CeCe Winans, singer-songwriters John Mellancamp and Bob Dylan, comedians Wanda Sykes and Kevin Hart, and dancers from the National Opera and Ballet of Ukraine.

The adjoining Crown Arena has events such as galas, Fayetteville Roller Derby competitions, a Mother’s Day gospel concert, and has hosted presidential visits from George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

Senior reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and pwoolverton@cityviewnc.com.

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cumberland county, crown event center, ADA