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Carolina Panthers, Charlotte unveil plan to overhaul stadium with $650 million from city

Rendering of a stadium
City of Charlotte
Carolina Panthers
A rendering of the Carolina Panthers' planned renovations to Bank of America Stadium's western facade.

The city of Charlotte unveiled on Monday a plan to spend $650 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium over the next four years. Tepper Sports and Entertainment — which owns the Carolina Panthers — would spend $150 million.

The city would use hospitality and tourism taxes to pay for the renovation, mostly from a 1% tax on prepared food and beverages. That tax was extended last year by the North Carolina General Assembly, essentially to help the city pay for stadium improvements.

The renovation would replace all of the seats, and also add a standing-room viewing area that’s become common in NFL stadiums. That terrace would likely mean the team would rip out some existing seats in the upper bowl.

Much of the rest would be replacing aging systems in the nearly 30-year-old building. That includes new HVAC and plumbing, updating the elevators and escalators, and overhauling the sound system and adding new video scoreboards.

Tepper Sports also wants to add video boards to the outside walls of the stadium and create plazas where fans can congregate.

Caroline Wright with Tepper Sports said the organization has added professional soccer and more concerts since Tepper bought the Panthers and the stadium in 2018.

“We’ve gone from 1 million fans to 1.85 million fans through our doors,” she told the city’s economic development committee. “That’s a lot of flushed toilets. And a lot of demand on the infrastructure.”

Under the deal, the Panthers and Charlotte FC couldn’t leave the city until 2039. And if they left in the five years after that, Tepper Sports would be required to pay the city back its outstanding debt. That’s estimated to be $400 million in 15 years.

The full City Council is scheduled to vote on the deal on June 24, and it appears likely to pass.

Though some council members said they wanted more details Monday, most indicated they would support it. They have previously discussed the proposal in closed session.

Council member Marjorie Molina said she thinks the improvements will help bond the city to the Panthers and Charlotte FC.

She said when she gets off an airplane in Boston or Wisconsin she notices how many people are wearing hats and shirts for their teams.

“They are bought and sold,” she said of the fans.

Taxpayers would fund more than 80% of the bill for renovations over the next five years. But Tracy Dodson, Charlotte’s economic development director, said the agreement was a near 50-50 split when taking into account Tepper Sports’ previous spending and what the company plans to spend on the stadium in the next 20 years.

Dodson credited Tepper Sports for spending nearly $688 million over that time. That includes $117 million on previous improvements for professional soccer. She also expects Tepper will spend $421 million on maintenance and unspecified improvements from 2029 to 2045.

The city had previously agreed to spend $110 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium for soccer in 2019. But Tepper never received the money, in part because that agreement called for him to build Charlotte FC’s headquarters at the old Eastland Mall site. He built it instead off Monroe Road.

It’s common for local and state governments to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build new NFL stadiums or to renovate existing ones.

Charlotte has so far spent relatively little on Bank of America Stadium. Former owner Jerry Richardson built the stadium in the early 1990s with his own money. In 2013, the City Council agreed to spend $75 million on improvements for the stadium, which included new scoreboards and escalators.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Tepper Sports & Entertainment owns Bank of America Stadium, which sits on land leased from the city of Charlotte.

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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.