Tom Sorensen

$5 for Panthers Fan Fest, for first time ever? Here’s a better value

The Carolina Panthers’ annual Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium is set for Friday, Aug. 4, and for the first time will charge admission. It’s not the best value.
The Carolina Panthers’ annual Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium is set for Friday, Aug. 4, and for the first time will charge admission. It’s not the best value. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The Carolina Panthers will charge $5 for tickets to Fan Fest, a fan-friendly practice at Bank of America Stadium. Although the money will go to the team’s charities ($300,000), I wish they hadn’t decided to charge. Like training camp practices in Spartanburg, Fan Fest has always been free.

The problem is that at some free events, there’s a mad scramble for access and for seats. Fans want to get close to players they are accustomed to seeing on TV. It’s as unwieldy as an autograph session multiplied by 50. Kids risk getting overrun. If during the Coca-Cola 600 you’ve been to Speed Street in downtown Charlotte, you understand.

Last season the Panthers distributed 60,000 tickets, and they were scooped up in one day.

I understand the need for order. I wish there were a way to impose it without compelling fans to pay.

I write this every year, but it remains true. The better show is in Spartanburg. Practices will be more intense than at Fan Fest, the crowd will be smaller and it’s an easy trip down and back. ...

Welcome back to town, Gerry Vaillancourt. Gerry V was one of the first sports talk show hosts in Charlotte. He left for New Orleans in 2002 when the Charlotte Hornets did. He’ll do a 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. show on ESPN 730 Charlotte. Good guy. Good talent. …

D’Angelo Williams made his professional wrestling debut Sunday in Orlando. If I ever became a pro wrestler, I had a match-ending finishing hold all set. I called it “The Deadline.”

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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