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Charlotte City Council approves $800M renovation plan for Panthers' Bank of America Stadium

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers are staying in Charlotte for the foreseeable future.

The Charlotte City Council voted Monday night to approve a joint $800 million stadium renovation plan with the Panthers that ties the NFL team to the city for the next 20 years.

Under the policy document, the city will pay $650 million toward the renovation of Bank of America Stadium in return for Panthers owner David Tepper keeping the team in Charlotte through 2045. Tepper will pay the remaining $150 million up front.

Tepper already has invested more than $117 million in stadium upgrades and also has agreed to another estimated $421 million in potential overages for capital improvements over the term of the deal.

The city's investment would be funded by existing hospitality and tourism tax resources, which are required by the state to be spent on projects to support the city's tourism economy.

The vote passed by a 7-3 margin.

Tepper released a statement Monday night thanking the city for its collaboration on the deal.

"For nearly 30 years, Charlotte has been the home of the Carolina Panthers and, more recently, Charlotte FC," Tepper said. "We are proud to be in the Carolinas and look forward to delivering a venue that meets the needs of our community, players, and fans for years to come."

Councilman Malcolm Graham acknowledged that some members of the council had "trust issues" with Tepper after his previous deals for a Panthers practice facility in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and a practice facility for his Major League Soccer team Charlotte FC in Charlotte fell through.

But Graham voted yes, saying "it is a forward-thinking initiative that aligns with Charlotte's future."

Councilmember Tiawana Brown voted no because of a lack of transparency on the deal and Tepper's reputation.

"It sounds real good until we get Mr. Tepper angry and then he might throw something at the city council," Brown said, a reference to Tepper throwing a drink on a fan during an away game last year. "The behavior of someone asking for $650 million is ridiculous."

The Panthers have struggled since Tepper purchased the team in 2018, compiling a 31-68 record while going through six head coaches. The Panthers finished a league-worst 2-15 last season, one year after drafting quarterback Bryce Young with the No. 1 pick.

In the end, the council did not want to risk potentially losing the Panthers, although Tepper has given no indication he might considering moving the team to another city.

Former Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart was among those who spoke in favor of the stadium renovations, telling the council, "embrace this opportunity to let the Queen City shine brighter even more so than it did in 2015," when the team went to Super Bowl 50.

The Panthers opened play at Bank of America Stadium in 1996, and it is now considered one of the older stadiums in the league.

However, the Panthers have said the 72,000-seat stadium has "good bones" and is holding up relatively well, although it remains in need of major renovations to bring it up to par with other stadiums around the league.

When the proposed partnership was announced three weeks ago, it was met with resistance from some residents who believe Tepper -- the NFL's second-wealthiest owner, with an estimated worth of $20.6 billion, according to Forbes -- should pay for all of the upgrades.

The stadium renovations are expected to be completed by 2029.

Among the improvements slated are upgraded video and audio systems, modernized infrastructure, redesigned concourses, unique social areas with skyline views and exterior spaces for community gatherings and programming.

There will be new seating installed throughout the bowl of the stadium, and there will be improved accessibility throughout the facility, designed and constructed in a way that allows individuals with a range of disabilities to have access without barriers.

Restrooms also will be upgraded.

The south lawn pavilion area would be reimagined as a community gathering spot and outdoor classroom on game days and nonevent days.

Copyright 2024 by The Associated Press