Panthers’ stadium revamp plans ruffle fans’ feathers



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Bank of America Stadium Image: Andrew Dunn / charlotteagenda.com

The 75,523-seat Bank of America Stadium which sits over 33 acres of land at uptown Charlotte in United States is up for major renovation work. The renovations are set to be over by kickoff of the 2020 season.

However, the decision has not gone down well with the Permanent Seat License (PSL) holders – the staunchest supporters – who are all set to lose their seats.

The home facility of the professional American football team Carolina Panthers will see a lot of makeover to facilitate fans an ethereal experience and enjoy to the hilt. The Carolina Panthers will also set the stage for the future Major League Soccer (MLS) team. The Panthers compete in the National Football League (NFL).

A little less than 900 seats will be bulldozed to make room for field-level bunker suites in the west end zone at Bank of America Stadium. In lieu of it, will come up 14 bunker suites. The bunker suites can fit in at least 12 people. The suites will feature field-level seating with state-of-the-art facilities which include food and beverage. The team has not provided any details on pricing or availability of the suites at this point of time.

However, the changes will also extract a price – the most devoted fans are going to lose their coveted seats and this has not gone down well with them. The 900 seats were owned by fewer than 400 Permanent Seat License (PSL) account holders. PSL owners will be contacted by the Panthers and given options on how to proceed with their account.

“We’ve been going to the Panthers game since they were in playing in Clemson at Death Valley,” (PSL) holder Tracy Keuhler stated.

Keuhler watched her children grow up at games for the last two decades.

“It’s a family tradition that now they’re taking away from us,” she lamented.

“There’s gonna be seating outdoors, there will be sort of a neighborhood area behind the seats and then suite owners are gonna have their own private space in the back of the suite,” Panthers spokesman Joseph LaBue explained. LaBue is also the Vice-President of Ticket Sales for the Panthers.

Scott Baucom (a fan) failed to understand why they weren’t notified much earlier about the renovation decision because he sold his first row PSL tickets to his friend.

“If the Panthers knew they were doing these things why did they just not say hey Scott, those seats aren’t gonna be there, you’re actually sending seats that aren’t even there?” Baucom fumed.

Account holders can take recourse to three possible course of action – they can move to available lower level seats in their current PSL location at no extra cost, move to a more expensive PSL location at no additional PSL cost but they have to open up their purse strings more, or seek reimbursement for their investment.

“We sat at the section where Cam (Carolina Panthers quarterback) would come hand the football to the child two rows in front of us. You’re not gonna recreate that 20 rows up,” Keuhler remarked.

LaBue said they are doing everything which is at their disposal – “We were very intentional and thought out about how this was gonna take place.”

But, for hardcore fans like Keuhler, the loyalty is lost.

“We’ve been all in. And this is just a slap on the face,” she said.

LaBue informed that they have started calling PSL account holders to inform them about the stadium redevelopment plans.

A press release sent out by the Panthers maintained that the stadium renovation is required to keep the stadium viable, maintain a strong fan experience and continue to bring entertainment options to Charlotte. Bank of America Stadium will play host to several concerts this year, including American singer-songwriter Garth Brooks in May.

LaBue informed that the design for the area is modeled after event-level suites at Madison Square Garden and Wrigley Field in US.

Global design practice Gensler & Associates is serving as the architect for the revamp project, while Rodgers Builders is the contractor.

Tepper Sports & Entertainment is financing the stadium redecoration work to sync with American billionaire businessman and Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper’s vision to bring more entertainment options, including sports, concerts and soccer matches to Charlotte.

In December last year, MLS, Tepper and the city announced the addition of an expansion team in Charlotte. Both the Panthers and Charlotte’s MLS team will play at Bank of America Stadium. The venue is being updated so also to accommodate the MLS team which will kick off its first season in 2021, and also to make the arena more soccer-friendly.

The arena is also expected to host a number of college football and non-MLS soccer matches.

“When [Tepper] took over, one of the things he asked for us to do was take a look at the stadium and how we could enhance the fan experience,” said LaBue.

Locker rooms, facilities for players and a standing-only Supporters Section with the MLS team in mind will also be restored. Fans can already put down membership deposits for various seating sections.

The Panthers spokesman informed that construction will be on even while events are held meantime.

“Hopefully we’re done by end of July. That’s the goal right now,” he said exuding confidence.

What about staunch supporters being miffed over the entire changes? “Number one, I want to let everybody know we’re calling every single impacted account individually. It’s about 380 accounts,” stated LaBue.

Sanford, NC attorney and long time PSL owner Chas Post remarked, “I think that as far as the view of the game, they may be better, the new ones! They (the Panthers) say they’re going to somehow provide us with the actual physical plastic seats that we sat in our previous section that have been ripped out.”

LaBue added that the project has been in the works for more than a year. So why were PSL owners notified so late? He says, “We didn’t know how many PSL owners were going to be affected. We also wanted to make sure that when we did this, we had all our T’s crossed, and all our I’s dotted.”

LaBue did not disclose if any other seats will be removed. Reliable sources revealed that there will be more suites at the other end zone.

“Think of three to four rows of plush, comfortable seating. Sort of the best amenities you’re going to have out in the seating bowl. Coupled with the best F and B we have here at the stadium. They’ll be all-inclusive,” he says. LaBue confirmed that the suites will be open-air, with an air conditioning option.

Fans in the bunker suites will be able to watch their heroes run out to the field in a new tunnel with a glass wall.

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