There's still some red tape, but Panthers fans can rest a little easier tonight.
The city of Charlotte has agreed in principle to the Carolina Panthers funding request that would see a hike in the food and beverage tax in exchange for $143.75 million in funding to help renovate Bank of America Stadium. In exchange for the money, the organization would be entering a 15-year agreement with the city -- locking them in, and killing any chance of relocation, according to the Charlotte Observer.
There was little doubt that Mayor Anthony Foxx would agree to the funding. It's easy to look at the money as greed by Jerry Richardson, but ignores the amount of money the Panthers bring to the city through taxes, employment, and ancillary business ventures. Moreover, it ensures the organization will remain in the city -- something that Richardson obviously wanted to achieve. Bringing NFL football to the Carolinas was his dream, and one he wouldn't give away easily, no matter how many non-so-quiet leaks were present about the city of Los Angeles courting the team.
Without being too morbid, it's likely that the agreement with the city will outlast Richardson's life. It will likely be 2014 before the agreement begins, and unless Jerry lives to 93 he wont see the end of it. There are plans in place to sell the team within three years of JR's death -- important because it means a new owner wont only need to accept the organization, but accept the city.
For all the jokes made about the Jacksonville Jaguars, any relocation from North Florida is impossible due to the team's lease agreement with the city. Shad Khan, who bought the team in 2012 has embraced the region, sinking millions of dollars in a re-branding effort, and upgrading their stadium. So too the Carolina Panthers will likely find themselves with a similarly minded owner who is shackled to Charlotte.
When the funding agreement ceases in 2029, it will be beyond time for the Panthers to get a new stadium. Richardson has already been scouting ground, and hiring consultants to look into the far-flung future. It's not outside the realm of possibility that Richardson's next goal will be to begin the groundwork for the next stadium in the next decade, or so. This would make the sale of the Panthers easy, and ensure the team further remains linked to the region.
There's still public debate to be had on the funding agreement, and the Carolina Panthers are still looking for additional funds from the state government. However, given budget shortfalls in Raleigh it's unlikely the state will approve the additional funding.
The important thing to take away is that the city is cognizant of cities looking to steal NFL franchises, they're making the neccesary moves to keep the Panthers in Carolina, and any consortium from Los Angeles will have to look elsewhere. Panthers' fans would agree with 7-9 seasons are better than 0-0 seasons, and everyone should sleep a little sounder tonight knowing that it will be at least another 15 years before anything needs to be worried about.