From Raleigh Fan Fest to SC facility: Panthers owner embraces ‘Two States One Team’

This off season is going to be very busy for the Carolina Panthers from a business and development perspective.

Addressing a small group of reporters Tuesday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium, team owner David Tepper provided some fresh details on the new training and practice facility he’s planning, as well as some changes that fans can expect at the stadium before the start of next season.

The search is ongoing for a property to house a team headquarters that will include a practice and training facility, Tepper said. He’s been working with leaders of both North and South Carolina to assess options. The facility, however, will likely be in relatively close proximity to uptown Charlotte.

“You really won’t want to be an hour and a half away from here if you had your druthers, for a training practice facility,” Tepper said.

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper says the team will be making some changes in the off season. Don Wright AP

Tepper said that the Panthers will be making some changes in order to fully embrace the team’s “Two States One Team” mantra. The stadium will remain in uptown Charlotte, Tepper has said, but the practice/training campus could be elsewhere in the Carolinas, as could other events such as Fan Fest.

The team doesn’t have plans to renew its contract to hold training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg past 2019.

“’Two States One Team’ does not mean we’re in Charlotte all the time, or just in South Carolina. Maybe we should be in South Carolina, (but) maybe we should have a Fan Fest in Raleigh or something new, how about that? Maybe down in Columbia?” Tepper said.

“All those options we talk about are on the table in the future.”

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Tepper, the billionaire hedge fund manager who bought the Panthers last summer for an NFL-record $2.275 billion, has bemoaned the team’s practice facilities for months.

The Panthers have three open-air practice fields (two natural grass, one artificial turf) that take up 7 acres adjacent to Bank of America Stadium. When it rains, the team has practiced in ballrooms in the Charlotte Convention Center. The Panthers are one of seven of the 32 NFL teams without indoor practice facilities.

Getting a bubble built to cover a turf practice field is a top priority for Tepper before the next season starts.

Tepper joked Tuesday that someone once told him that “it doesn’t rain” in Charlotte.

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“It rains so frickin’ much here. We missed so many practices,” Tepper said. “That hurt this team. We have two teams we play every year that have indoor facilities. We should be preparing indoors on turf.”

There are some changes within Bank of America Stadium that Tepper said need to happen before next season, too. For instance, some parking spots will be removed to make way for an expansion of the team’s cafeteria in the stadium to accommodate all players eating at the same time.

“We do not have the best facilities in the league. We do not have the best weight room, we do not have the best cafeteria. Whatever it is, we don’t have it. We have to make it better,” Tepper said.

Tepper wouldn’t say what his plans are for a new facility to replace Bank of America Stadium, which is one of the oldest stadiums in the league. “We’re still investigating that,” Tepper said.

Selling sponsorship spots within the stadium is also something the Panthers may look to do in the off season to tap into new revenue sources. Tepper insinuated that’s an effort that’ll be undertaken by his newly hired vice president of development, Mark Hart, who previously held the same role with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“(Hart) brought his daughter to the stadium and his daughter said, how come you don’t have any sponsors?” Tepper said.

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As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.