From Frank Hill, a former chief of staff for Sen. Elizabeth Dole and director of The Institute for the Public Trust in Charlotte:
Heres the question of the day: Should the average taxpayer in these tough financial times be taxed to support the upgrade or construction of any professional sports stadium without having an upside attached to that investment?
The Carolina Panthers bring lots of joy to the community when they win, just like any other NFL franchise around the nation. Is that worth $125 million in taxpayer support paid for in small taxes on each Whopper every Charlottean eats over the next 15 years?
Some studies argue that NFL franchises spur economic activity in the cities in which they operate. They certainly spur jobs and economic growth when the stadium is being built, as long as local contractors and suppliers are used to build the stadium with local employees. Other studies conclude that the economic activity caused by eight home games out of 365 days per year is a piddling return on any public investment or infusion of taxpayer capital, especially when there are pressing needs, such as in public education, to solve first.
The Panthers stadium was built in 1995-96 with taxpayer-supported bonds but they were retired with a unique thing in major league sports: PSLs. The Permanent Seat License.
Put a big checkmark in the column of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson for retiring public debt before the taxpayers of Charlotte had to pay too much in interest since the bonds were paid off and retired within five years.
Since the Richardsons were trailblazers in the use of PSLs, perhaps Panthers management would consider the following public/private partnership that might set a whole new trail for taxpayer-supported NFL, MLB or NBA stadiums nationwide:
In return for the $125 million in taxpayer funds to upgrade the stadium, the taxpayers of Charlotte will receive a 12.5 percent share of any appreciation in the value of the asset from now until the franchise is sold.
1. The value of the Panthers is now estimated to be $1 billion including the stadium. 12.5 percent represents the $125 million to be invested by the taxpayers of Charlotte.
2. If the asset value of the Panthers does not go up, the taxpayers of Charlotte will get no return on their investment.
3. If the team is sold for $2 billion, the taxpayers of Charlotte will get a $125 million lump-sum payment that the City Council can then decide to rebate to the taxpayer; use to improve schools or retire then-existing debt.
In addition, maybe the Panthers would consider having a lottery for each home game where some lucky taxpayer would be selected to attend in return for them helping foot the bill for this renovation.
We think Mr. Richardson and the Panthers management are honorable people. They know what the right thing to do is; they did it before with the invention of the PSL.
Maybe it is time for them to do it again.
The views expressed in For The Record are the writers, and not necessarily those of the Observer editorial board.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less