SBD/January 16, 2013/Facilities

Charlotte City Council Endorses Panthers' Funding Request; GM Gettleman Introduced

Bank of America Stadium renovations would reportedly cost more than $200M
The Charlotte City Council has "given an early endorsement" to the Panthers’ request for $125M in public money for stadium renovations, voting 7-2 on Monday to "gauge the support of the N.C. General Assembly," according to a front-page piece by Steve Harrison of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The proposal still "needs approval from the legislature" and Gov. Pat McCrory. The vote was an "indication to the legislature that the city supports the proposal." However some council members said that they are "still negotiating with the Panthers." A number of council members said that they "believe that McCrory and legislative leaders also support the plan." The "total cost of the stadium renovations is reportedly" more than $200M. Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson also is "expected to ask the state for money." Harrison reports some council members are "concerned about the team’s long-term future in Charlotte." Richardson has said that he "won’t move the team." But it is "unclear what his succession plan is, and some fear the team could be sold and moved, possibly to Los Angeles, which doesn’t have an NFL team." Two council members said that the city is "negotiating with the Panthers for some level of assurance the team would remain in Charlotte as a condition" for the $125M. There have been "indications for months that the City Council was open to helping" the Panthers. The team has given "only a few details of what a renovation could entail." The team said last fall that Richardson "wants to add escalators to make it easier for fans to reach the upper bowl." Additionally, the team wants to "improve its video boards." During Monday’s meeting, the team reportedly "told council members it would also improve suites" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/16).

HERE TO STAY? In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes there are "reasons the city should consider the team’s request." The foremost is that "investing public money ties the team to Charlotte." What happens to the team "when Richardson is gone is conjecture," and Charlotte’s $125M investment would "make the team much more difficult to sell and move." That means meeting with the City Council Monday night "was not a mistake." Meanwhile, meeting in closed session and stationing officers outside might have "been the call of the city and not the team," but "avoiding questions was a Panthers decision" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/16). A CHARLOTTE OBSERVER editorial states the Panthers' request "feels like a kick to the gut" of Charlotte's taxpayers. The editorial: "It's a huge amount of money. It’s tone-deaf to the times. It suggests that overpriced athletes have more value than underpaid police officers. And it's something, unfortunately, the city needs to seriously consider doing." Consideration should be given because $125M "is not a lot compared with other NFL stadium renovations," and there remains the potential of the team moving to L.A. or "any other city looking to entice an NFL team." The 76-year-old Richardson, who had a heart transplant four years ago, is "aging and has no publicly known succession plan after firing his two sons." Play "chicken with the Panthers and they could pack their bags -- and that’s no bluff" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/16).

JERRY'S WORLD: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg cited a source as saying that Richardson has "mandated the NFL franchise be sold two years after his death." Spanberg notes the "revelation marks the first time details have been disclosed about the Panthers’ fate beyond the life of Richardson." Mark and Jon Richardson, his sons, worked as Panthers execs before Jerry Richardson "forced them out in 2009." Before then, "everyone assumed Mark and Jon Richardson would own and operate the team after their father’s death." Since that time, Richardson and the Panthers have "declined to disclose succession plans." The Panthers "need to be tied to the city before anyone not named Richardson becomes the owner of the franchise." An easy way to do that is to "commit to the stadium overhaul the Panthers have been working on for much of the past year" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/15).

GETTING THEIR GUY: The Panthers yesterday formally introduced Dave Gettleman as their new GM, and Richardson said that he likes that Gettleman "comes from a winning organization such as the New York Giants." Gettleman, who had served as Giants Senior Personnel Analyst, said that he "wondered if this opportunity would ever come after spending 25 years in the league." Gettleman: "They say good things come to those who wait and I feel like this is absolutely the perfect fit for me. ... It was time for me to move to significance and a lot of that is thinking about legacy. What is your legacy?" Gettleman said that his philosophy on free agents is that he "plans to build through the draft." He added, "You have to raise your own" (AP, 1/15). Gettleman said, "I firmly believe in the saying, ‘Every man is my equal and I may learn from him.’ So we’re going to be an inclusive group.” In Charlotte, Jonathan Jones notes the team is nearly $16M "over the salary cap for the 2013 season, but the general manager declined to discuss personnel specifics because he had not yet evaluated the team from top to bottom" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/16). The OBSERVER's Scott Fowler wrote Gettleman "makes a heck of a first impression." Gettleman "certainly 'won' the press conference at Bank of America Stadium, coming across as charming, smart and gruff." He advanced through the NFL scouting ranks and "feels most comfortable watching film in a darkened room and evaluating players, but his sense of humor and directness makes him seem like a guy that players would enjoy talking to and front-office people would like working for." He "seemed honest and was definitely entertaining" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 1/15).
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