Panthers venue rejig – Tepper temper concern



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Carolina Panthers stadium revamp Image: Tepper Sports & Entertainment

The National Football League (NFL) team Carolina Panthers’ stadium will be getting a significant upgrade in time for its 30th birthday.

Construction is slated to start in 2026 following a 10- to 12-month design phase, according to a team official. The renovations are expected to be completed by 2029.

‘The Athletic’ stated that the Charlotte City Council approved $800 million in renovations for the Bank of America Stadium on June 24th, a 20-year agreement bolstered by $650 million in public funds. The vote came just three weeks after the stadium plan was initially unveiled. The public money for the improvements will come from the hospitality tax funds which must be earmarked for the tourism-related projects.

However, few Council members have “trust” issues with the Carolina Panthers Owner David Tepper as well as his temper.

The Carolina Panthers are a professional American football team based in Charlotte, North Carolina (US). The Panthers compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league’s National Football Conference South division.

Carolina Panthers stadium revampImage: Tepper Sports & Entertainment

The Bank of America Stadium is a 74,867-seat multipurpose stadium located on 33 acres in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, United States. It is the home facility and headquarters of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL) and Charlotte FC of Major League Soccer (MLS).

The Charlotte City Council is the legislative body of the City of Charlotte (US) and forms part of a Council-Manager system of Government. The Council is made up of 11 members and the Mayor, all elected to two-year terms in odd-numbered years.

‘The Athletic’ further stated that the renovations will feature a state-of-the-art sound system, scoreboards and the light-emitting diode (LED boards), updated bathrooms, faster escalators, and new seats throughout the stadium. There are also plans to create gathering spaces outside the stadium and turn a section of the upper deck into a “social patio” with views of the Charlotte’s skyline.

The Council approved the public expenditure by a 7-3 vote following a lengthy discussion during a meeting that lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours.

While several Council members mentioned the economic impact of the stadium and the team, others questioned the rushed nature of the process and whether the City should be in business with the Panthers Owner David Tepper. Tepper, a hedge fund Manager worth an estimated $20.6 billion, has backed out of previous partnerships, including a deal to build a massive team headquarters and practice facility in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
 

Tepper Temper

Council Member Malcolm Graham conceded some Council members had “trust issues” with Tepper during the process because of the scrapped projects in Rock Hill and at the Eastland Mall, which the Tepper Sports & Entertainment planned to redevelop as the Charlotte FC’s headquarters.

Charlotte (US)-based the Tepper Sports & Entertainment (TSE) owns and operates the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, the Major League Soccer’s (MLS’s) Charlotte Football Club and the Panthers home ground – the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The TSE is committed to making the greater Charlotte Metro area the premier year-round destination for sports and entertainment in the Carolinas (term for the US States of North Carolina and South Carolina).

“It sounds good until we get Tepper angry again and then he might throw something at the City Council,” Council Member Tiawana Brown said, referencing Tepper’s drink-tossing incident at Jacksonville (Florida) last season.

Added Brown, “The behavior of someone asking for $650 million is ridiculous.”

Council Member Dimple Ajmera said the process was “totally lacking transparency”, noting she had not been given appropriate time to study the terms of the deal.

Graham said informal talks with the Panthers took place over 10 months in 2023 before formal talks began last December in a closed executive session.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said after the vote, “I think we’ve had public discussion for more than three weeks. Basically, we’ve had closed sessions – I know that that’s not an open area. But it’s something that we’ve actually known about and known that we were gonna have to address the issue.”

After buying the team in 2018, Tepper talked about adding a dome or retractable roof in order to host a Super Bowl (the annual league championship game of the NFL) or Final Four at the Bank of America Stadium, the Panthers’ home since 1996. But Tepper said the COVID-19 pandemic gave him more of an appreciation for the open-air stadium.

The stadium agreement includes a tether tying the Panthers and the Charlotte FC, the MLS team owned by Tepper, to the City for the next 15 years. There’s a soft tether over the remaining five years requiring the TSE to pay off the outstanding debt if Tepper moves either team out of Charlotte.

During the public forum preceding the vote, the former Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart referenced the team’s most recent Super Bowl season in encouraging the Council to support the project – “I know firsthand the Panthers unite people from all walks of life. … The fans deserve this and the community also deserves this. Let’s embrace this opportunity to let the Queen City shine brighter even more so than it did in 2015.”

Tepper and his wife Nicole did not attend the June 24th Council meeting or any of the open sessions where the renovations were discussed.

Tepper released a statement following the City Council’s vote, “Today’s (June 24th) vote by the Charlotte City Council is the culmination of many thoughtful discussions with the City officials, the local leaders and our fans to create a shared vision for the Bank of America Stadium. We are proud to be in the Carolinas and look forward to delivering a venue that meets the needs of our community, the players and the fans for years to come.”

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