But on this day in 1997, when officials staged the groundbreaking for the new arena in west Raleigh, it was known as the Raleigh Entertainment & Sports Arena. Or ESA.
The groundbreaking on the $120 million arena came after months of negotiations and efforts to scrape together the money. NC State would share the arena with the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League.
“The budget battle that preceded approval of Raleigh’s proposed arena was dirty,” read a story on WRAL.com at the time of the groundbreaking. “But it couldn’t hold a candle to the shovels full of mud that flew Monday at the arena’s official groundbreaking ceremony.”
Among those on hand for the ceremony was then-Gov. Jim Hunt and then-Chancellor Larry Monteith.
When the arena opened a little more than two years later, the NC State magazine welcomed it with a two-page spread of photos, calling it a “state-of-the-art arena capable of ‘packing in’ 19,722 howling fans.