If you're the kind of person who loves local politics sprinkled in your football, then Wednesday morning in Charlotte was a treat. Jerry Richardson and members of the Carolina Panthers front office began the task of hammering out the framework of their 15-year funding agreement with the city. While most of the discussion centered on where tax money would be going, and what would happen with excess dollars -- we did get some nuggets about the future of the team, and how the city view it.
Braving an early, rainy morning -- Dianne Gallagher of WCNC in Charlotte had excellent updates on her Twitter feed. The city is petrified of losing the Panthers, that much is clear. While they know Richardson won't move the team, they are incredibly scared of a new owner. JR acknowledged that Los Angeles was courting the team during the Democratic National Convention, while saying he's had one prior offer to move the team to L.A. also. The risk was never losing it now, but post-death. The 15-year agreement would keep the Panthers in town short-term, but there's no telling how a court would side in a lawsuit. The Seattle Supersonics had an agreement with the city of Seattle, for example, and they were allowed to pay the city to break the agreement - ultimately moving to Oklahoma city.
In exchange for the lump sum for renovations, Charlotte has requested the Belk Bowl, and another four events be permitted ‘lease free' to the city. In addition, they've requested that the renovation work done to the stadium be permitted to women, and minority owned small businesses.
Richardson noted that the Panthers have the 25th oldest stadium in the NFL without any major upgrades or renovations. If you're a nosebleed seat holder, you'll be happy to hear that escalators are a big part of the renovation, and will run on the outside of Bank of America Stadium. In addition, there are rumors of new, larger screens and scoreboards.
It's not all about BoA, however, as the city are also looking forward to the possibility of a new stadium following the 15-year agreement. Deputy city manager Ron Kimble said that the stadium could either become "like Wrigley field", or Charlotte will look at a new stadium. The city of Charlotte retains an option following the 15-year agreement to purchase Bank of America stadium unoccupied (making the price cheaper). Presumably this would offset some of the cost of a new stadium for a new owner, while also giving the city an asset.
There have been questions about just how much the organization is worth the area -- and today we got an answer. The Carolina Panthers are responsible for $39-million in state taxes each year. Extrapolate this out, and you're looking at $585-million over 15-years, more than three-times the requested renovation money. This doesn't include local property tax, and city taxes generated in addition.
The political debates will continue, and we'll see in time how the plans for the improved BoA will have an effect on fans. If there's one thing to take away it's the sense of urgency the city have in ensuring the Panthers remain in Charlotte long-term. Jerry Richardson's death will be the most tenuous time in team history, until a new owner is named and we get a sense of their ideals. Moves and discussions like this will hopefully sway a prospective owner into keeping the team.