The Carolina Panthers plan to add a pair of top-of-line video boards, enhanced statistics on LED ribbon boards that encircle Bank of America Stadium and other upgrades to their 18-year-old home.
But the top priority in the nearly $300 million renovation plan for Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is both utilitarian and close to his heart: escalators to transport fans to the upper deck.
After a 71-year-old Pinehurst man died walking to his car after a home loss to Atlanta in 2011, Richardson wanted to do more for the teams older fans, Panthers president Danny Morrison said Monday.
Richardson, 76, who received a heart transplant in 2009, attended the funeral for Bruce Rognon, who was 55 when he bought two PSLs in 1996 during the Panthers first season in Charlotte. Sandy Rognon said she and her late husband would take the elevator to the upper deck before games and would walk down afterward.
Rognon, who kept the couples seats in section 534, said she was moved to learn that her husbands death had affected Richardson.
Its a little overwhelming for me really, Rognon said Monday from her home in Pinehurst. Im touched that that would have such an impact on him.
Morrison unveiled the Panthers renovation plans Monday during a meeting with Observer reporters and editors. Populous, the design firm that drew up the renovation plan, estimated the total cost between $261 million and $297 million.
Charlotte City Council last week tentatively approved a plan to provide $143.75 million for the project. The Panthers are asking the state to contribute $62.5 million.
Morrison said the renovations would be done in stages, and hopes work could begin after the 2013 season.
In addition to spending an approximate $28 million on escalators and elevators, Morrison said the Panthers have allocated $59 million for bigger and better video boards, ribbon boards and a better sound system.
The Panthers current video boards were installed in 2006, and are lacking by todays standards. But Morrison said the Panthers do not want monstrous video boards like those at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Were not interested in putting in some overpowering video boards that dont fit the classic design of the stadium, Morrison said.
The Panthers also would spend $62 million in infrastructure improvements and $16 million to renovate the team store, ticket office and three entry gates. The team hopes to streamline the entry process after lines clogged last season when security personnel began screening with hand-held wands, as mandated by the league.
Farther down the priority list are a $30 million indoor practice facility and $29 million in enhancements to the stadiums suites and club levels. Morrison mentioned putting automatic windows in the suites, but said Richardsons directive in updating the stadium was be fair and impact 74,000 fans.
Planned stadium improvements
• Escalators/elevators to upper deck: $28 million
• Video boards, ribbon boards, sound system: $59 million
• Technology (improved bandwidth; mobile apps that allow fans to tap into TV broadcast replays): $25 million
• Infrastructure (heating and air, new seats): $62 million
• Entry gates, ticket office, team store: $16 million
• 100 and 500 levels/concourses (upper-deck terraces with skyline views): $35 million
Club/suite level: $29 million
• Team areas/indoor practice facility: $30 million
• New concepts (bunker-style, field-level suites): $13 million
Source: Populous master plan for Panthers