County slashes value of Panthers stadium by $100 million. The team wants a bigger break

Mecklenburg County officials have agreed to decrease the assessed value of Bank of America Stadium by about $100 million, potentially saving the Carolina Panthers $1 million on their next property tax bill. But the team contends the value should be lowered even further.

Mecklenburg County conducted its first property revaluation this year since 2011, giving many property owners sticker shock as values rose by a median of 43% for residential properties and 77% for commercial ones. The increases were particularly sharp in rapidly-changing areas near uptown, an Observer analysis found.

The value of the Panthers stadium surged by 324%, from just under $135 million to $572.3 million.

The team, though, thinks the stadium is worth less than it was even eight years ago.

In a Feb. 19 letter to the county, the Panthers argued that it should be worth $87 million and said they base that estimate on the “recent purchase.” Billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper bought the Panthers last year for an NFL record of $2.275 billion.

Last month, the county lowered the value of the stadium and related property the team owns to $472 million. That happened through an informal review, where the Tax Assessor’s Office considers appeals on a case-by-case basis. If the tax assessor agrees there’s an error, the value can be adjusted — up or down.

Bank of America Stadium in uptown Charlotte. The county has agreed to reduce the assessed value of the stadium by about $100 million. John D. Simmons

Property owners are allowed to request a formal appeal, even as the informal process is still ongoing. That’s what the Panthers did in May, when it also filed a formal appeal with the county Board of Equalization and Review, the county said. A hearing date has not been set yet, but the Panthers are moving forward with the formal appeal, despite the initial value reduction.

In February, Tax Assessor Ken Joyner told the Observer that the county used the stadium’s age, seating capacity and recent renovation, among other factors, to ascertain the value.

A spokesman for the Panthers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Like many property owners, the team will likely still see a higher bill overall than last year, unless the county agrees to a significantly lower value.

The team’s tax bill was $1.8 million last year, county records show. Under the original $572 million valuation, the team would have paid $5.7 million under 2019 tax rates. If the stadium remains valued at $472 million, the team would foot a $4.7 million bill.

The Panthers recently received another tax break, thanks to a bill passed last year by the state legislature.

Under the legislation, the Panthers now pay property tax only on the stadium and other buildings that they own, saving the team more than $350,000 in property taxes per year. The land is tax-exempt because it is owned by the city and leased to the team for $1 a year.

Public funding

The request for a lower valuation comes amid reports that Tepper could ask the city for up to $215 million in funds for stadium renovations and other costs associated with acquiring a Major League Soccer franchise. Tepper and Panthers officials have been pushing to bring an MLS team to Charlotte.

And Tepper has said he’d like a new stadium with a retractable roof in Charlotte in the next decade, with taxpayers helping foot the bill.

The stadium is one of the oldest in the NFL.

In 2013, the city agreed to give the Panthers $87.5 million in public money for stadium renovations and some operating costs.

Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett said its “hypocritical” for the Panthers to work to lower their taxes while asking taxpayers, many of whom face higher taxes under the revaluation, to fund their operation.

The reason always given for any subsidy for professional sports is that it’s a wise investment because there’s a payoff down the road,” he said. “But then what we always see is, they work really hard to eliminate that payoff.”

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Danielle Chemtob covers economic growth and development for the Observer. She’s a 2018 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill and a California transplant.