Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper continues to make his argument for a new retractable-roof stadium, pointing to the high-profile events it could draw.
Since purchasing the Panthers from Jerry Richardson last year, Tepper has taken some aggressive steps in plotting the organization’s future. Some of his moves have focused specifically on football operations, highlighted by plans for a new team headquarters/training complex in Rock Hill, SC. He has also been focused on non-football items, however, with more events at Uptown Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium and a potential MLS expansion team among his goals.
In the long run, this push could lead to a retractable-roof stadium in Charlotte, as Tepper has been making the rounds to outline his vision for a new facility to replace Bank of America Stadium. The idea behind a retractable-roof stadium is to not only create a modern environment for NFL and potentially MLS games, but to also bring more major events to the Carolinas. The Final Four is being touted as part of that mix, though in theory a retractable-roof stadium would also make a compelling case for a Super Bowl and other events.
Still, it is an idea that could be years away if it does ever come to fruition, with Tepper indicating that he would like to see a retractable-roof stadium in the next decade. A retractable-roof stadium is also expected to require some public financing, meaning that Tepper and the Panthers will have to spend considerable time lobbying local and/or state governments to partner on the project. In selling his vision to government officials, it appears that Tepper will point to the event opportunities that a retractable-roof stadium would open up for the region—with a particular emphasis on the Final Four. More from the Charlotte Observer:
“Have we sat down to do a 10-year plan yet? No. But we’ve been doing a lot of things in the past year on the facility side. It’s not like we’ve been idle, but it’s first things first — like the (practice) bubble.
“If we want to have a long-range plan to think about this stuff — if it’s seven or eight years out — we have to start talking about it. So you guys can (ask), ‘How great do you want to the Carolinas to be?’ Do you want Final Four basketball or not?’
“How the heck can you not have a Final Four in North Carolina when Indianapolis has one all the freakin’ time? It’s ridiculous. There is some pride involved here..”
In comparison to the open-air Bank of America Stadium, a new retractable-roof stadium would certainly offer more flexibility that allows for events such as the Final Four. It would also put Charlotte in a better position to compete with other major markets, including fellow Southeast locale Atlanta, in drawing major events.
However, there are still a lot of unknowns. While the ability to draw major events could appeal to some elected leaders, it is safe to expect that a new retractable-roof stadium will cost well over $1 billion, which would require a substantial public contribution even under a public-private financing model. It also remains to be seen how MLS affects the case for a retractable-roof stadium: Tepper and the Panthers have steadily built their MLS pitch, but there is much that remains to be settled regarding the league’s expansion plans and Charlotte finds itself in a competitive mix of candidates.
For Tepper, the argument for a retractable-roof stadium is going to be built in part on what it can do for Charlotte and the Carolinas beyond NFL and potentially MLS, with a particular focus on major events that are currently out of the region’s reach. Whether that argument will be enough to persuade local and state officials remains to seen, but it will undoubtedly be one of the selling points that Tepper and the Panthers highlight in their case for a new stadium.
Image of Bank of America Stadium courtesy Carolina Panthers.
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