The Charlotte City Council has directed city staff to meet with the Carolina Panthers and ask the team how much financial assistance it might want for a stadium renovation, even before the NFL team has made a formal request.
During a closed meeting Sept. 27 about economic development, council members voted 6-4 for city staff members to meet with the team.
The Panthers are working on a long-term plan to improve Bank of America Stadium, which opened in 1996 and is owned by the team. The Panthers have declined to say how much the renovations might cost, and have given only a few details as to what the rehab would entail.
Team president Danny Morrison has said owner Jerry Richardson wants escalators to make it easy for fans to reach the upper bowl. In addition, he said the team would likely want larger, better video boards.
Even before the closed meeting, some elected officials indicated they were interested in helping the team.
But the willingness of some elected officials to offer financial help to the team before being formally asked has reportedly rankled some other council members.
The team is working with Kansas City-based Populous on its plan, which will likely be finished at the end of the year.
In an interview with the Observer last month, Morrison declined to say whether the team would seek public assistance. He only said the amount of renovations would be dependent on how much money the team had.
Interests of the city
Democrat James Mitchell, who heads the economic development committee, said in September he thinks its in the best interest of the city to help the Panthers. Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat, sent Richardson a letter last month inviting him to discuss the plans.
He wrote: I cannot unilaterally commit resources but I do feel we have an interest in the long-term presence and success of the Carolina Panthers franchise you have built.
At the Sept. 27 meeting, Democrats Michael Barnes, Patsy Kinsey and LaWana Mayfield voted against directing staff to meet with the team, along with Republican Warren Cooksey. Republican Andy Dulin didnt attend the closed session meeting.
Future of the team
Democrat Claire Fallon, who supports meeting with the team, said its important to find out what they are thinking, where they are going.
She said one concern among council members is the future of the team. Richardson, the team owner, is 76 and received a heart transplant three years ago.
Whats he going to do with the team? Fallon asked. We need to know about the succession plan. I think its smart business for the council to look ahead.
Charlotte spokesperson Kim McMillan declined to comment on when a meeting would take place, to protect the integrity of a closed session meeting.
Funding for baseball stadium
Earlier this year, the City Council voted to spend $8 million to help pay for an uptown baseball stadium for the Charlotte Knights.
City help with Bank of America Stadium renovations could be higher.
Its unclear where the city would find money to help the team.
One complication is that Foxx and council members are trying to pass a long-range capital improvement plan, which would likely cost more than $500 million. That would require a property tax increase.
City officials could use revenue from hospitality taxes, which are designated for tourism. They include a tax on hotel and motel room occupancy and a 1 percent tax on prepared food and beverages.
Money from Mecklenburg Countys hotel/motel tax was used for the $8 million subsidy for the Knights.