Panthers crowd urged to watch lane closures

Despite an abundance of construction around Bank of America Stadium, Carolina Panthers fans don't have to worry about losing prominent parking lots when the 2008 preseason kicks off tonight.

For those traveling to uptown Charlotte for the 7:30 p.m. game against the Indianapolis Colts, though, closed lane and other traffic changes could cause more road tie-ups on streets that already saw gridlock before and after past Panthers games.

Charlotte traffic officials' advice? Use public transportation.

“There's a lot of construction uptown,” said CDOT spokeswoman Linda Durrett. “There are a lot of lane closures. It's just easier to take the (light rail) or take a bus and walk to the stadium.”

For example, Stonewall Street, one of the major routes to the stadium, is undergoing major renovations as construction continues on the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Afro-American Cultural Center and I-277 projects.

David Christopher, CDOT's special events coordinator, said the only parking lot he know of that's closed since the 2007 season ended was Spectrum Properties' lot at Third and Tryon Streets, where the 300 South Tryon condo tower is being constructed.

To shuttle fans to and from the stadium, light rail will increase the frequency of trips. Rather than running every 15 minutes as normal on Saturdays, light rail vehicles will makes trips every 10 minutes starting at 4:30 p.m. and every 7.5 minutes after the game.

Light-rail riders today can also purchase round-trip tickets to prevent the hassle of standing in line on the way back, and the I-485 station will open a ticket booth in addition to the ticket machines to help handle the projected crowds.

CATS spokeswoman Jean Leier said an expected number of riders for today is unknown, but fans looking to save money could pack the light-rail vehicles. Round-trip light-rail tickets cost $2.60 for adults and $1.30 for seniors and children.

With the game sold out, Charlie Dayton, Carolina's director of communications, expects a crowd in the mid-60,000 range if Mother Nature cooperates.

“It's all on what the weather's going to be,” Dayton said, “but we expect a great crowd.”