City hopes to gauge costs, Panthers expectations on stadium renovations

City hopes to gauge costs, Panthers expectations on stadium renovations

City hopes to gauge costs, Panthers expectations on stadium renovations

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by STEVE HARRISON / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on October 10, 2012 at 2:52 PM

 The Charlotte City Council has directed city staff to meet with the Carolina Panthers and ask the team how much financial assistance it might need for a planned stadium renovation.

During a closed session meeting Sept. 27 about economic development, council members voted 6-4 for city staff members to meet with the team.

The Panthers are working on a long-term plan to improve Bank of America Stadium, which opened in 1996. The team has declined to say how much the renovations might cost, and it has given only a few details as to what the rehab would entail.

Team president Danny Morrison has said owner Jerry Richardson wants escalators to make it easy for fans to reach the upper bowl. In addition, he said the team would likely want larger, better video boards.

The team is working with Kansas City-based Populous on its renovation plan, which will likely be finished at the end of the year.

In an interview with the Observer last month, Morrison declined to say whether the team would seek public assistance with the renovations. He only said the amount of renovations would be dependent on how much money the team had.

The city has indicated it is interested in helping the team.

Democrat James Mitchell, who heads the economic development committee, said he thinks it’s in the best interest of the city to help the Panthers. Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat, sent Richardson a letter last month inviting him to discussion renovation plans.

He added in the letter: “I cannot unilaterally commit resources but I do feel we have an interest in the long-term presence and success of the Carolina Panthers franchise you have built.”

The willingness of some elected officials to offer financial help to the team before being formally asked has reportedly rankled some other council members.

At the Sept. 27 closed session meeting, Democrats Michael Barnes, Patsy Kinsey and LaWana Mayfield voted against directing staff to meet with the team, along with Republican Warren Cooksey. Republican Andy Dulin didn’t attend the closed session meeting.

Democrat Claire Fallon, who supports meeting with the team, said it’s important to “find out what they are thinking, where they are going.”

She said one concern among council members is the long-term future of the team. Richardson, the team owner is 76, and received a heart transplant three years ago.

“What’s he going to do with the team?” Fallon said. “We need to know about the succession plan. I think it’s smart business for the council to look ahead.”

City Manager Curt Walton couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. Walton is retiring from the city in December.

Earlier this year, the City Council voted to spend $8 million to help pay for construction of a new uptown baseball stadium for the Charlotte Knights.

City help with Bank of America Stadium renovations could be higher.

The Kansas City Chiefs recently finished a $375 million renovation of Arrowhead Stadium, which was built in the early 1970s. Work on the Bank of America Stadium is believed to cost significantly less because the stadium is newer.

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