SBJ/Jan. 13-19, 2014/Facilities

Additional space in upper deck could create sponsored hangouts for Panthers fans

The Carolina Panthers plan to develop new branded destinations in the upper deck at Bank of America Stadium, a project tied to the first phase of renovations at the 18-year-old facility.

As part of the initial upgrades, a $65 million project, the Panthers have about 10,000 square feet of new space to program on the 500 level after the stadium walls are pushed out by 28 feet to build 12 escalators for improved circulation in the building.

The upper-deck work is among improvements planned for the 18-year-old stadium.
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The team’s vision is to create new hangouts for fans sitting in the cheap seats to buy a beer and grab a bite to eat before, during and after the game while they watch the Panthers on television, as well as out-of-market games on the NFL RedZone Channel.

Those new decks, designed at the top of each escalator bay, most likely will be converted into sponsorship zones for some of the Panthers’ biggest partners, said John Berger, director of sponsor sales and services.

The Panthers’ beverage sponsors are Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and Pepsi, and they potentially all could be involved in creating branded areas for fans to congregate on game days, Berger said. There are no deals completed at this time, he said.

“We’re still working through a plan to present opportunities for sponsors to do branding,” Berger said.

The development of those decks will be similar to what the Panthers have done downstairs on the 100 level when they built some small bars where fans can sit down and watch NFL games while they enjoy a cold beverage, Berger said. Bud Light brands at least one of those bars.

Dave Wagner, a principal with local Wagner Murray Architects and designer of the upgrades, said the 500-level plazas “absolutely” provide opportunities for the Panthers to generate new sponsorship dollars.

“It could be many different things, whatever the marketing guys decide to do with it,” said Wagner, whose firm is also designing renovations at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, home of the Buccaneers. “Every team is always attempting to improve the fan experience and engage the sponsorship component of the stadium.”

At Bank of America Stadium, the open-air plazas are covered by canopies. There will be no views to the field but the vantage point will provide scenic views of the city of Charlotte, said Scott Paul, the Panthers’ director of stadium operations.

Turner Construction, the Panthers’ general contractor, starts working on the renovations next week.

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