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Opinion
Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: If The Panthers Want A New Stadium, All The Partners Should Reap The Rewards

Panthers
Carolina Panthers
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It’s hard to fathom just how rich Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper really is. Here’s a quick story that might help.

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When he moved from New Jersey to Florida in 2015, he put the entire budget for the state of New Jersey in jeopardy because he was paying the state so much in taxes — the unofficial estimate was $120 million. Last year he moved back, so I guess the Garden State can pave its potholes again.

Tepper, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is worth $14.5 billion. That makes him the 143rd richest person in the world, which sounds kind of disappointing until you consider it puts him ahead of the other 7.7 billion people on our planet.

It should not be surprising that somebody worth that much money is a hard-edged dealmaker. So here Tepper was the other day, talking about a new stadium for the Panthers, saying that he’s not planning to take on the whole load for building it.

“I’m not building a stadium alone,” he said. “If I’m a third, and the community’s a third, and eventually in the future, personal seat license (owners) are a third, or whatever we do, it’s a partnership.”

So here’s the thing about a partnership. Partners who invest in a project together should reap the rewards together. But that’s not really what Tepper is talking about here.

When he’s talking about the community, he means taxpayers — money funneled through the county or city or state. You can do the research yourself if you’d like, but I’ll just sum it up for now by saying that it is not a settled question as to whether a pro sports team is economically good for a city in the long run. Especially if taxpayers have to pony up millions to keep it.

Personal seat licenses are an upfront fee season ticket holders pay to claim their seats. This was a big part of the financing for the Panthers’ current stadium. It’s a volatile investment — they can be worth a lot more than face value, or a lot less, depending on how the Panthers are doing from year to year.

But there’s no yearly income for holding a PSL. If this were really a partnership, PSL holders would get a dividend of the Panthers’ profits every year. And so would the city or county or whoever spent taxpayer money to build a new stadium.

What we have instead is everyone else getting indirect profits, at best, and David Tepper — already a multibillionaire — getting cash he can put in his pocket.

I suspect, if he were on the other end of it, that’s not a deal Tepper would accept.

I love the Panthers. I want them to stay around. But maybe it’s time fans learned to be tough negotiators, too.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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