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What Are the Stadium Options in Carolina?

Bank of America Stadium

At some point, David Tepper will make his mark on the Carolina Panthers slate of facilities. Less than a year into his ownership of the franchise, Tepper has outlined a new practice facility as a priority and given some indications that the future of Bank of America Stadium will be addressed down the road.

What remains to be seen over the long haul, however, is exactly how Tepper will want to handle Bank of America Stadium. Despite renovations completed to Bank of America Stadium in recent years, the facility is unlikely to be maintained at status quo over the long haul—due in no small part to the wave of new and renovated NFL venues that are upping the ante, and Tepper’s own ambitions for the Panthers’ home.

Some of these questions were back in the spotlight last week, when Tepper alluded to the idea of putting a roof over the open-air Bank of America Stadium. On the surface, his comments did not offer much insight and the feasibility of putting a roof over a mid-1990’s era open-air stadium is something that would have to be studied thoroughly.

However, Tepper also made remarks about wanting to host more non-football events—including large concerts. Combine that with an some chatter about a potential MLS club and the ambitions of elected officials to bring major events such as the Final Four to Charlotte, and it becomes apparent that any future Panthers stadium solution will have to yield more non-NFL events.

With that in mind, a few Panthers stadium options could be on the table. Putting a roof over the existing facility would need further study, but the possibility of building completely anew in Charlotte should not be ruled out. Despite being just two years old, Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium is already serving as a model for what a multipurpose NFL facility cold look like in the future—it features MLS and NFL clubs under the same ownership, has landed major events such as the Super Bowl (with a Final Four on the way in 2020), and hosted plenty of concerts.

Having that type of facility to lure for major events could be enticing to Tepper, North Carolina, and local officials, but cost will be a consideration. Mercedes-Benz Stadium cost well over $1 billion to build and, even if a retractable-roof were scrapped in favor of fixed roof, it seems safe to expect any modern NFL stadium with a cover and design features catered to multiple types of events will at least reach the $1 billion threshold.

If a new stadium were not in the cards, then a renovation could be the way to go. Three different types of concepts could be floated in this case, including one that adds a roof, another that installs a canopy to cover the seating bowl, or one that leaves the basic structure of the stadium intact but significantly modernizes its fan amenities and player facilities.

The canopy approach is one that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross took in his renovation of Hard Rock Stadium, and it has helped expand the facility’s event schedule beyond NFL or NCAA football. Still, that type of renovation would not land the Final Four and would be questionable for a Super Bowl, given that Charlotte has never hosted the game in the past and would face plenty of competition in the future (including Miami and Atlanta, along with newcomers in Los Angeles and Las Vegas).

The key to any new stadium plan might ultimately lie in the practice facility. At this point, it is known that the Panthers are serious about replacing the three practice fields adjacent to Bank of America Stadium with a modern facility, with the future complex’s location likely in the North Carolina or South Carolina suburbs of Charlotte. Having that land available would free up future development opportunities, as Tepper has noted previously.

That development could be tied into any stadium plans. Sports facilities are increasingly expected to serve as anchors of new development, and even a Bank of America Stadium renovation could become more feasible with the presence of available land for development. It would also fit into any ideas to make the stadium usable for more than just football, as the extra event days would bring more activity to the development.

At this point, it is too early to predict exactly how the Panthers stadium options will take shape. Plenty of factors will have to be considered by Tepper and local and state officials, but there could be clarity on the situation down the road—especially after the more immediate priority that is the practice facility is resolved.

Image courtesy Carolina Panthers.

This article first appeared in the weekly Football Stadium Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? It’s free, and you’ll see features like this before they appear on the Web. Go here to subscribe to the Football Stadium Digest newsletter.

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August Publications