If new Panthers owner wants stadium upgrades, there’s money available — but a long wait
By Steve Harrison
May 15, 2018 02:48 PM
The city of Charlotte has set aside $75 million for a second round of renovations to Bank of America Stadium — but that money isn’t available for four years.
Questions about Bank of America Stadium have been swirling for several months, since owner Jerry Richardson announced in December he was selling the team. The questions have intensified after hedge fund manager David Tepper is set to become the second owner of the team. He is expected to sign a deal Tuesday to buy the Carolina Panthers for $2.2 billion in cash.
The $75 million would come from the city’s Convention Center fund, which comes from two taxes. The first tax is a 3 percent tax on hotel and motel rooms in the county, and the second is a 1 percent tax on restaurant and bar tabs in Mecklenburg. The General Assembly in Raleigh five years ago gave Charlotte the ability to use those taxes for stadium renovations.
In 2013, Charlotte and the Panthers reached a deal for the city to spend $87.5 million on capital improvements to the stadium, as well as some game-day operating subsidies. The capital improvements — worth $75 million — helped pay for projects like new escalators, video boards and better Wi-Fi and cell service.
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In return, the city received a “hard tether” to keep the team in Charlotte through the 2019 season. There are an additional four years on the tether, through 2023, but the financial penalty for an owner moving the team is minimal.
There have been no indications that Tepper — or anyone else — wants to move the team from Charlotte.
But city officials, and business leaders, believe that a new owner would want additional renovations to the 22-year-old stadium. After paying more than $2 billion for the team, the new owners would want a stadium that could generate as much revenue as possible.
It’s possible, however, that the city and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority could tap into millions of additional tourism dollars.
The CRVA has several other projects planned for the Convention Center fund, said Ron Kimble, a consultant with the CRVA who was formerly Charlotte’s deputy city manager. Kimble negotiated the city’s 2013 agreement with the Panthers for $87.5 million in renovations.
The first is an expansion of the convention center and a subsidy for a 1,000-room hotel. The CRVA has set aside $30 million for that project, and that money is available in the upcoming year.
The second is a proposed partnership with UNC Charlotte to build a conference center near the JW Clay Boulevard light-rail station. The CRVA has set aside $8 million for that project, and that money is available in 2020.
The third project is some form of amateur sports partnership. The city has tried and failed to partner with a private developer to build an indoor field house that could host basketball and volleyball tournaments. But the CRVA has set aside $22.5 million for that project. That would be available between 2021 and 2023.
The city and CRVA are not committed to building any of those projects. It’s possible they could scrap those projects, freeing up an additional $60.5 million by 2023.
There are also tens of millions of other tourism dollars the city and CRVA could potentially use for stadium improvements.
The CRVA plans to upgrade and expand Discovery Place; the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center; and to help Mecklenburg County rebuild Memorial Stadium in Elizabeth. In theory, those projects could be canceled, with the city using that money for the Panthers.
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