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Senate could OK Panthers stadium bill Thursday

RALEIGH A measure that would allow the city of Charlotte to help finance renovations to Bank of America Stadium could win final approval Thursday after sailing through a Senate committee.

But the bill falls short of what the Carolina Panthers had originally asked for and it remains unclear whether it’s enough to tie the team to the city and, if so, for how long.

The Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed the bill that would allow the city to use occupancy taxes, now earmarked for the Charlotte Convention Center, for the stadium. The measure, which has already passed the House, could generate up to $110 million.

“We are pleased that the Senate has continued to move the process forward,” Panthers’ President Danny Morrison said in a statement.

The Panthers and city had sought legislative approval to raise local taxes to give the team $144 million. The team sought an additional $62.5 million from the state toward a planned upgrade of nearly $300 million.

State officials rejected their request for state money.

Sponsors have said there’s no appetite for a tax increase of any kind in the Republican-controlled legislature.

That was underscored Wednesday when GOP Sen. Austin Allran of Hickory asked Charlotte Republican Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a main sponsor, if any state tax dollars would be involved in the bill.

No, Samuelson replied.

“Why don’t you say that again?” Allran replied.

Earlier this week, Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell, the council’s lead negotiator with the team, said the city will use $110 million of debt capacity from the Convention Center fund to help the Panthers. But the team will have to share the money with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which runs the Convention Center.

Mitchell also ruled out using other tax dollars to help the team. “Our hands,” he said, “are tied.”

The city’s original deal with the Panthers included a 15-year tether that would have kept the team in Charlotte for 15 years after the team is sold. Owner Jerry Richardson, who’s 76, has said his estate would sell the team two years after his death.

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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