Carolina Panthers ownership could ask Charlotte officials for hundreds of millions of dollars for Bank of America Stadium upgrades, with the enhancements aimed at landing an MLS expansion club.
Panthers owner David Tepper has made his desire for an MLS expansion team known since taking control of the organization last year, and could look to further that effort with upgrades to Bank of America Stadium. No formal plans for renovations have been unveiled yet, but it is possible that the organization will seek city funding to help finance any facility improvements.
Charlotte City Council members were reportedly briefed on the issue last week in closed session, when it was apparently revealed that Tepper could seek city funding to cover some of the cost. An exact number has not been pinned down, though the city’s contribution could be as high as $215 million and primarily go toward stadium renovations and other MLS-related facilities. More from The Charlotte Observer:
Council members were told Tepper would contribute over $400 million in franchise fees, team salaries and other costs associated with the team. The city would be asked for $100 million to $215 million, a source said. That would be used for stadium upgrades as well as a practice center and team office.
The money would come from tourism-related taxes, not property taxes.
Asked about MLS Tuesday, Panthers President Tom Glick said, “We continue to be in very close contact with the commissioner’s office (regarding expansion). There’s no timetable, but we’re very confident in our candidacy. We don’t have any further update than that right now.”
A Panthers spokesperson would not comment on the city council session.
The Observer has reported that the Panthers have not sent the city a formal request, but the possibility of an ask from the organization raises some intriguing questions. A commitment to upgrade Bank of America Stadium could, in theory, help Charlotte move to the front of the pack among contenders for MLS’s 30th expansion slot. (Sacramento is seen as the front runner for the 29th club.) MLS is expect to take a break between deciding on its 29th and 30th teams, though a commitment to improve Bank of America Stadium could bolster Charlotte’s case when the time comes for a decision.
There are some complexities in play, however, including the long-term future of Bank of America Stadium. Tepper has floated the idea of a new retractable-roof stadium being constructed in the next decade, pitching it as a venue in the mold of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium that could host NFL and MLS while serving as a draw for high-profile events like the Final Four. Should those discussions move forward, a public-private funding partnership could be on the table. At that point, Charlotte officials would have to decide whether they want to commit substantial funding toward improving Bank of America Stadium before delving into discussions about helping to finance a potential replacement.
Those questions should be answered as the process plays out, but for now its clear that Tepper and the Panthers are making MLS expansion a priority.
Image courtesy Carolina Panthers.
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