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Behind Closed Doors, Panthers Ask Council For Stadium Upgrades

Flickr/Suzie T

The Charlotte City Council met Monday night behind closed doors with Panthers president Danny Morrison and owner Jerry Richardson. The team is seeking public support for renovation of their 16-year-old stadium. But, Panthers officials won’t talk about it, the mayor won’t talk about it, and (only) a limited number of staff have been let in on it.

In the mid-90s, local and state governments gave Panthers owner Jerry Richardson a $60 million boost by giving him the land to build the stadium and funding infrastructure improvements. In return, the stadium’s construction was privately financed with the help of season ticket holders who paid for personal seat licenses.

But after 16 years, Panthers officials say it needs significant upgrades. It lacks the huge HDTV screens, escalators and other amenities of newer stadiums. The team wants the City Council to approve $125 million to fund improvements, according  to two unnamed sources who spoke to the Charlotte Observer about Monday night's Council meeting.

“Typically when companies are considering moving to Charlotte, expanding in Charlotte, or even leaving Charlotte, these are the kinds of discussions—delicate I will say—that we will have in closed session,” says Councilwoman Beth Pickering.

The prospect that the Panthers could move to another city adds to the delicacy. Los Angeles is building a stadium, and investors from that city are hunting for a team. Pickering says the Panthers have not brought it up, but offers from other cities are on everyone’s mind.

“They’re not talking about it, but we think not only Los Angeles, but other cities as well,” Pickering says. “We want the Panthers here, but, you know how it is with these NFL teams. They move around.”

Pickering wouldn’t confirm an Observer report that the Council considered doubling a 1 percent restaurant tax to pay its share of the renovation. That increase would require approval from the state legislature. Pickering said the Council hopes to have those kinds of details hammered out, before bringing the request public in about a month.