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Charlotte Mayor Lyles says leaks on Panthers stadium 'undermine' efforts to secure deal

Bank of America Stadium
Carolina Panthers
Handout art

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles addressed media reports that the City Council has been discussing in closed session whether to help pay for a major renovation of Bank of America Stadium, the home of the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC.

Lyles said in a statement that it is “unfortunate that discussions that happen in closed session are shared publicly because it undermines our ability to deliver the best deal for our community.”

The mayor added that it is “important that we retain any business in our city.” She did not elaborate on what that meant. The Panthers have not made any public overtures about leaving Charlotte for a more modern stadium in another city.

WSOC-TV reported the project could cost $1.2 billion, with $600 million possibly coming from taxpayers.

Earlier this week, the city and hospitality leaders lobbied the General Assembly to extend until 2060 two tourism-related sales taxes. The first is a 2% tax on hotel rooms for the NASCAR Hall of Fame that sunsets in 2038. That's largely paid by visitors from out of town.

The other is a 1% sales tax on prepared food and beverages that can be used for a new stadium or renovations. That restaurant and bar tax expires in 2031. Because it applies to all prepared food and drink in Mecklenburg, county residents pay the bulk of that levy.

As the city has pushed to extend the taxes, it never disclosed that possibility to the public.

The City Council has periodic updates on its legislative agenda, and didn’t mention the tax extensions there either. The city has said that the hospitality industry took the lead in lobbying to extend the taxes.

While a number of council members defended keeping the public in the dark, Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston said it was a mistake.

“People should know how much they are being taxed, and if there are plans to extend that tax,” he said.

The language to extend the taxes was added to an existing state House bill that would create a specialty license plate for Charlotte FC, the city’s Major League Soccer team.

Mecklenburg Republican John Bradford is the primary sponsor. Four members of the Mecklenburg Democratic delegation have also signed on: Mary Belk, Becky Carney, Terry Brown and Carolyn Logan.

There is no bill filed yet in the Senate. There are also no GOP members in the Senate from Mecklenburg County.

Two City Council members told WFAE that they have discussed helping pay for a major renovation to the stadium, which opened in 1996. The team is not considering building a replacement stadium, the council members said.

In the past, Panthers owner David Tepper has discussed the possibility of creating an entertainment district near or adjoining the stadium.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.