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Charlotte leader claims $650M ‘isn’t going’ to Panthers owner David Tepper

The city of Charlotte is proposing to spend $650 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium.
Carolina Panthers
The city of Charlotte is proposing to spend $650 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium.

City of Charlotte Economic Development Director Tracy Dodson said Wednesday that the proposed $650 million in city funds to renovate Bank of America Stadium “isn’t going to Tepper Sports and Entertainment,” which owns the stadium and the Carolina Panthers.

Under the deal, the city would spend $650 million on stadium improvements like new seats and scoreboards over the next four years. Tepper Sports would spend $150 million.

The organization has also said it would spend roughly $430 million on maintenance and other improvements from 2029 to 2039.

The city has said it will pay the contractors who do the work instead of writing a check to Tepper Sports upfront. Dodson was speaking in response to criticism of the public spending on the stadium — with the majority of respondents to a city survey saying Tepper, a multi-billionaire should pay for the renovation himself.

“But also, if you heard me Monday night, I reiterated that this money isn’t going to Tepper Sports and Entertainment,” Dodson said in an interview Wednesday. “This money is going to a community asset, the facility. And the money actually goes to a lot of community businesses.”

That has been a key talking point for Dodson and city officials since they announced the plan on June 3.

But her statement is arguably an oversimplification as well as misleading.

Under the plan, the city would spend $650 million worth of hotel/motel and prepared food and beverage taxes on the stadium, which is owned by David Tepper’s company. While the city might write a check to contractors, all of the resulting improvements would also be owned by Tepper.

The money would increase the value of the stadium, allowing the owner to generate more money from games, concerts and other events.

It would be like agreeing to pay for a new roof for your friend’s house. That friend would still own the house and the roof — even if you then claimed the money didn’t go to the friend because you paid the roofer directly.

The City Council’s economic development committee voted unanimously Wednesday to advance the plan to the full council.

The city has agreed to hold a special public hearing on June 17 from 3 to 5 p.m. A final vote is scheduled for June 24.

WFAE also asked Dodson about comments she made in a Monday meeting about an online survey the city is conducting about the deal.

In her presentation to City Council, Dodson said the most common themes in the survey were people suggesting the money be spent on something else; that they were excited about the opportunities for local businesses; that they wanted to make sure the city was protected financially; and that perhaps the stadium should have a roof or a canopy.

But when WFAE reviewed the responses, a different theme emerged. By a nearly 4-to-1 margin, respondents were adamant the city not do the deal. They objected to subsidizing the Carolina Panthers’ multi-billionaire owner David Tepper. A typical response: He should “pay for his own damn stadium.”

She did not convey to council members or the public the level of opposition to the plan. Under pressure from some city council members, the city this week released the full results.

Dodson said she didn’t do the background research on the survey responses to make her presentation.

“That’s what our staff pulled together as what we thought the themes were to relay,” she said.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.