Charlotte MLS Team President Talks Atlanta Rivalry, Big Tepper Sports Plans
Charlotte Football Club's debut with MLS is still a year and a half away, but team President Tom Glick said Tuesday season ticket reservations and sales of team gear are "incredible," rivaling those of Atlanta's team.
"We have north of 30,000 season ticket deposits already, which is a huge number and ahead of the pace that Atlanta United was on when they launched four years ago," Glick said. "And Atlanta has really set the standard for that league."
It sounds like Glick is helping to boost the idea of a regional rivalry with Atlanta before the club's March 2022 debut. That campaign started Dec. 17, the day MLS announced Charlotte was getting the team when owner David Tepper promised Charlotte-Atlanta would be "a hell of a rivalry."
Tepper Sports Big Plans
Glick spoke to the World Affairs Council of Charlotte Tuesday morning about the new soccer club and the business plans of Tepper Sports and Entertainment.
Glick said the company has four lines of business: the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte FC, an entertainment venue division (including Bank of America Stadium and future training facilities) and a business promoting concerts and other events. He outlined several big projects in the works:
- Building the soccer club: Charlotte FC was supposed to start playing in 2021, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced the league to delay expansion by a year. "The 18 months between now and March of 2022 is going to be jam-packed with firsts … enhancements to Bank of America Stadium, the signing of a new head coach, recruitment of more players, the unveiling of our uniforms." The club also is building a youth academy and working on partnerships with area youth soccer clubs. As for players, Glick said to expect signings during the soccer world's four "transfer windows" between now and 2022 as well as in the college and MLS expansion drafts.
- Bank of America Stadium: "It's an amazing venue in such a great location at the hub of our region, and it has a bright future ahead of it, a really bright future," Glick said. "We're investing in it and we're going to be bringing ... millions more fans here, not just for the NFL, not just for Major League Soccer, but also for so many other experiences in live music, in other sports, in festivals and more." He showed pictures of The Gallery, a new set of luxury suites and a lounge on field level near the Panthers locker room. He said the suites would be used not only for sports but during upcoming concerts by Garth Brooks and the Rolling Stones.
- Panthers' new headquarters: Glick also showed plans for the Panthers' new headquarters and practice complex in Rock Hill, South Carolina, which they're calling "The Rock." He said the opening has been delayed from 2022 until 2023 because of the coronavirus pandemic. At 240 acres, it's triple the size of the current standard for NFL practice facilities, the "Star" development of the Dallas Cowboys. The centerpiece will be what Glick called an "iconic" headquarters and training ground. Around it, he said, will be a mixed-use development with "something for everyone — sports, other live events, visitor attractions, meetings and conferences, shopping, health care, a big corporate park and also people living there," Glick said. And there will be outdoor activities at the site near the Catawba River.
- New stadium or a BofA dome? Glick was asked where plans stand for building a new stadium or adding a dome to Bank of America Stadium. He said that question is one of many up in the air because of the coronavirus pandemic. "We just have to wait and see how the dust settles and on the pandemic. And as we do that, we're going to continue to invest in Bank of America Stadium, which is a great place and has, you know, a really bright future to it. There's so much more that we can and will be doing here. And because the location is the greatest, it will always be tempting to us to consolidate here at Bank of America Stadium. But I think it's too early to say."
- Charlotte FC headquarters. The MLS team also is working with the city to develop a headquarters and practice facility on the site of the former Eastland Mall. Glick did not say much about that, other than to note that it would be one of the new soccer club's initiatives in 2021.
Glick talked up soccer as a new way to connect Charlotte with the sports and entertainment worlds across the U.S. and globally. That will include the birth of Charlotte FC as well as more visits from top European clubs during the International Champions Cup summer tournaments.
"Charlotte will have this growing window into the world through this global ecosystem of soccer," Glick said. "And I think it will provide a great connection point for business leaders, for city and country leaders, and more. And there'll be an opportunity there for us to leverage."