Charlotte’s Spectrum Center, home to the NBA’s Hornets, will be the site of the league’s All-Star Game on Sunday. (Courtesy Charlotte Hornets)

GM Donna Julian talks about Charlotte arena’s preparations for this weekend

Thirty-four years after starting as a Washington Bullets intern at the old Capital Centre, Donna Julian is working her first NBA All-Star Game.

Donna Julian: “We’re excited to finally have” NBA All-Star Game.

Julian, the Charlotte Hornets’ senior vice president of arena and event operations and the general manager of Spectrum Center, has been employed with Charlotte’s NBA team since early 2005, the year the facility opened. VenuesNow visited with Julian before NBA All-Star Weekend, which gets under way today and culminates with the All-Star Game on Sunday night.

How long have you been working on the All-Star Game from the time you had that first meeting?
We were supposed to have it in 2017 (before the event was relocated to New Orleans after the controversy over North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” a law that has since been changed), so you’re probably talking about 2015. It could have even been 2014 when we started talking about it. There have been ongoing conversations. The last 12 months we’ve been working with a committee of people to make sure we have our ducks in a row. It has been a long process, but we’re excited to finally have it.

To what extent does the NBA take over the building for the event?
We’re here to get the building ready for them to create what they want that All-Star magic to be. They are in control of putting together what they want. It’s larger than any other event but it’s some of the same changes, such as making sure the floor is ready, which we do on a smaller scale for all events. There’s a large media setup inside the bowl that we have to get ready for.

I imagine there are a lot of pop-up spaces for this event. On the food side, what is Levy’s plan?
You’re going to see some unique things, including three specialty items from around the league. We really want people to taste the food but be able to get it in quick manner and go enjoy what’s going on inside the seating bowl.

(The New York Pastrami Burger Tower from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Bulgogi Banh Mi Sandwich from Staples Center in Los Angeles and Dynamite Shrimp from Portland’s Moda Center are the three items from Levy’s other accounts.)

Did you lean on the experience of your industry colleagues who have hosted the All-Star Game?
I was in Los Angeles last year and spent some time with (Staples Center’s) Lee Zeidman. I’ve been up to Toronto. The NBA likes you to come to the event the year prior to hosting it. The NBA does a tremendous job making All-Star fit to where it’s going to be, but obviously we’re not L.A. It’s still good to have that support and call somebody to get an idea of what it takes.

Is there one thing you can point to that you learned last year to apply to your building?
We did get a chance to see their (security) zone outside the arena. They had multiple facilities closer together, so that made them a little different compared with our building and Bojangles’ Coliseum (That venue, the site of Friday night’s NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, is about 3 miles from Spectrum Center.)

What’s it been like working with Bojangles’ Coliseum, a city-run building?
It’s been great. It’s that whole (idea) of having an all-star event for the community in different locations. It gives people an opportunity to see what’s going on out there and to see these superstars. It opens up a whole new group that gets to go and participate and spread things out a little bit. The NBA has done the same thing in a few markets, and it seems to make sense for them.

What does it mean for Spectrum Center long term hosting this high-profile event?
We’ve got the Republican National Convention in 2020. We’ve been very fortunate to have some of the biggest events come through the city. It’s something I’m very proud of and the city I’m sure is extremely happy. The impact for the restaurants and hotels, it’s just huge for everybody. We’ve got the ACC tournament coming up in March. Charlotte has proven it can do these big events, and they’ll continue to try and get them.