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Tiny parcel next to Panthers stadium sells for $555,000

After a yearslong standoff, the owners of a tiny island of private land on the Bank of America Stadium site have sold it to the city.

The owners, a family that runs a Marshville clothing company, had sought to sell the property for as much as $3 million, according to Panthers general counsel Richard Thigpen. They sold it last August for $555,000, according to city-county property records. Its tax value is $239,600.

Construction fencing went up this week around the 3,628-square-foot parcel as the Carolina Panthers began a $65 million renovation project at the 18-year-old stadium. Officials say planned new escalator bays would jut into the area near the parcel, just outside the stadium’s north entrance on the Stonewall Street side.

The standoff was older than the stadium. The landowners and the city had been at odds over the sale price since before the stadium opened in 1996. City officials then called the owners’ price exorbitant; the owners talked of putting up a food vending stand on the plot.

A row of hedges went up around the problematic parcel and remained there until Monday, when passers-by noticed the bushes had been taken down.

“It was a curiosity,” Thigpen said of the parcel. “It was the last piece of the puzzle on the land the city attempted to acquire for the stadium and practice fields.”

City-county property records show Seafarer LLC, the Marshville firm that owned the property, sold it Aug. 15. Seafarer, which makes U.S. Navy-style dungarees and chambray shirts, sold the land to the city of Charlotte, the records show.

Thigpen and Panthers spokesman Charlie Dayton said the land was acquired as part of last year’s stadium renovation deal in which the city gave the football team $87.5 million in exchange for a six-year “hard tether” to keep the team in Charlotte.

Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble said the Panthers bought the land, then included the purchase among the expenses in the stadium renovation project and turned it over to the city.

Kimble said the sale finally gives the city ownership of all the land under the stadium.

The team owns the stadium, but leases the land from the city for $1 per year.

The renovations, which began this month, include four new escalator bays, larger video boards and other improvements around the stadium.

Aaron Efird, whose family runs Seafarer, had handled the land negotiations. Reached by phone Thursday, Efird wouldn’t elaborate on why the family finally agreed to sell.

“It just took awhile to work it all out,” he said. “That’s all there is to it, no comment for the paper.”

He then hung up.

Panthers fans grew used to the hedges, which could almost pass as merely part of the landscaping. But the underlying standoff vexed city and Panthers officials for years. Efird at one point suggested putting up a kiosk called the Mint Street Pavilion. It would have included space for food vendors, phone banks and advertising.

He told the Observer in 1999 that he was a big Panthers fan with club-level seats. The standoff over the land was just business, he said at the time.

Asked Thursday how city officials felt about the sale, Kimble replied: “We know it’s been difficult for anybody to acquire that site. We are happy that this issue is now resolved.”

Panthers officials have said they expect to complete the renovations this summer. Staff writer Jim Morrill contributed.

Frazier: 704-358-5145; @Ericfraz on Twitter
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