Though the team has yet to be sold, there is already discussion about whether a sale of the Carolina Panthers will lead to an effort to replace Bank of America Stadium.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that Panthers owner Jerry Richardson will put the team on the market once the current season concludes. That announcement–which came after a report in Sports Illustrated indicated that at least four former Panthers employees were given monetary settlements after coming forward with complaints about inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by Richardson–has prompted discussion about the team’s future at Bank of America Stadium, and whether a new facility could be in the offing.
Through a 2013 agreement with the Charlotte City Council, the Panthers received $87.5 million in public funds that included $75 million for stadium upgrades. The Panthers have since completed several renovations at Bank of America Stadium, and the deal includes a six-year “hard tether” that locks the team into Charlotte and the facility through the 2018 season. While the Panthers are planning to move forward with an additional phase of upgrades, the hard teather for Bank of America Stadium does not extend beyond June 2019.
One of the major points when it concerns the potential for a new stadium is the ability to bring major events to Charlotte. A new domed venue would certainly be needed for the NCAA Final Four, and some view it as a necessity for the Super Bowl and other high-profile games. At this point, the leader of at least one group seeking to buy the Panthers has signaled his interest in a new facility. More from The Charlotte Observer:
Team founder and owner Jerry Richardson announced this month that he will sell the team at the end of the season, following a bombshell report in Sports Illustrated alleging he used a racial slur and engaged in sexual misconduct at work. Richardson had previously planned to sell the team within two years of his death.
Charlotte businessman Felix Sabates, who is heading a group to try to buy the Panthers, says the stadium must be replaced by a domed venue similar to the $1.6 billion Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which opened in September.
Although Bank of America Stadium has been updated in recent years, with new escalators and jumbo video boards, the stadium doesn’t have a dome, a feature that many view as essential for a stadium to host the Super Bowl, Final Four or college football championship.
[Former deputy city manager Ron] Kimble has told council members that the city’s tourism taxes can’t cover the city’s share of a $1 billion stadium. That share could be $300 million to $500 million.
For both football and other events, some of the more recent NFL stadiums have emphasized protection from the elements, as the Falcons debuted the retractable-roof Mercedes-Benz Stadium this year and upcoming new venues in Los Angeles and Las Vegas will both be domed. The Panthers have played at the open-air Bank of America Stadium since its opening in 1996.
Image courtesy Carolina Panthers.