For sports station WFNZ-AM (“Fan” 610), the Panthers’ championship run this season has been a bonanza.
Ratings are up, excitement is high and the station’s Doghouse, a bar and tailgate destination at Mint and Morehead streets next to Bank of America Stadium, has never been busier.
Giant video screens will be added outside for Sunday’s playoff game against Seattle so more fans can party at the Doghouse, says D.J. Stout, WFNZ’s operations manager.
“It’s become a place where people actually go to watch the game,” says Stout. For those without tickets, it’s the next best thing to being there – people can hear the clamor inside the stadium on big plays.
This season, WFNZ has broadcast all its local programs on Mondays and Fridays from the Doghouse with its key hosts, including Chris McClain, Jim Celania, Colin Hoggard, Nate Conley, Frank Garcia, Mark Yarbro and Chris Kroeger. Pre- and post-game shows for home games have also been anchored at the Doghouse.
Stout says he thinks the Panthers’ success has had an impact on the city.
“It’s helped us take another step toward becoming a mature sports town,” Stout says. As a melting pot, Charlotte has people moving in all the time with other sports loyalties, but the Panthers this year have become a unifying force.
Charlotte has an underdog mentality, Stout says, and that has only increased the excitement over the team’s success.
At WBT-AM (1110), program director Jason Furst says that ratings have been good for the play-by-play Panthers games this season, though the night network games don’t do as well because they are such television events.
Ratings for Fox games on WJZY (Channel 46) have been among the highest since the network switched from WCCB (Channel 18) three years ago. Panthers games are typically the highest-rated programs of anything broadcast in Charlotte during the week.
More sports are also in the works for WJZY’s sister station, WMYT (Channel 55), says Kieran Clarke, general manager of the two Fox-owned stations.
WMYT last week announced plans to air three Davidson men’s basketball games, and Clark says that he hopes to increase the number of Charlotte Knights home baseball games the station broadcasts this summer. He is also looking to find other sports the station can carry in other seasons.
“We want to make WMYT into a station that has more exposure to sports,” said Clarke, who took the helm of the two stations in September. “We want to tap into the enthusiastic sports market.”