Charlotte City Council Close To Finalizing Deal To Keep Panthers Until '27
The Charlotte City Council on Friday gave "tentative approval" to a plan to provide the Panthers with $143.75M and keep the team in Charlotte for the next 15 years, according to a front-page piece by Harrison & Bethea of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The bulk of the money would "go toward upgrades" at Bank of America Stadium, while other funds would "go toward stadium maintenance and paying for traffic control on game days." The vote came "after a three-hour closed door session by the City Council, including a talk" with Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson. Richardson declined to offer specifics on the team’s request, but said "the process is continuing." Richardson: "I never would want our team to move somewhere else." Harrison & Bethea noted in exchange for the monetary backing, the Panthers "must agree to not leave Charlotte for 15 years." That would keep the team in the city "through the 2027 season." Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said, "If we had not made this decision -- and at some point in the future, the team had been sold and moved away -- we would feel that loss." The city's deal "hinges on state lawmakers agreeing to a 1 percent increase in the food and beverage tax levied in the city, as well as the state chipping in $62.5 million in aid toward the stadium upgrades." Some state legislative leaders have "indicated it would be a difficult fight." The City Council "approved the plan" by a 9-1 vote (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/9).
INVESTMENT PLAN: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg noted a total of $302.5M would be invested in the team -- which includes payments from the city, state and team -- and $250M of that total would be dedicated to stadium upgrades. The Panthers' share would be $96.25M. Sources said that the "state could help the team in other ways, perhaps through incentives or other inducements." One clause in the city contract "gives the city the option to buy the stadium from the Panthers if the franchise relocated in the five years following the 15-year commitment." Shifting the "burden of game-day traffic control expenses would remove a longstanding source of frustration for the Panthers." A Panthers spokesperson said that the team "would comment on the stadium issue next week." Foxx said that Richardson was "emotional" when he met with Foxx and the City Council on Friday (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/8).
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: An OBSERVER editorial was written under the header, "Unnecessary Secrecy Cloaks Panthers Deal." It is "distressing the city has been so secretive and plans to raise taxes more than required." The Panthers are a "treasure for Charlotte." They create "jobs and ignite economic activity while creating an undeniable cachet." The $125M they "sought from the city may feel like blackmail but is much smaller than what other cities are paying to keep their NFL teams happy." Foxx, Richardson and the council "shouldn’t be so scared of the public who would benefit, and who would foot the bill" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/9). In Charlotte, Mark Washburn sarcastically wrote, "We did it!" Washburn: "We did it behind closed doors so the public would be spared the boredom of listening to the facts. ... We did it without ever learning what the money is going to go for. An escalator and a scoreboard?" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/10).