No state money for Carolina Panthers stadium upgrades

No state money for Carolina Panthers stadium upgrades

A view from the upper reaches of the Bank of America stadium with the Charlotte skyline in the background. The stadium was built entirely with the money paid for Permanent Seat Licenses (PSLs) in the first years of the Panthers' NFL franchise. GARY O'BRIEN - gobrien@charlotteobserver.com

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by JIM MORRILL / Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 8:31 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 5 at 8:41 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday that no state money would be available for the Carolina Panthers, complicating the team’s bid for public money to help upgrade Bank of America Stadium.

The team has asked the state for $62.5 million toward a planned $250 million stadium renovation.

“We don’t have the money in the state to address that issue,” McCrory told the Observer Monday. “I have never been actually asked for the $62 million, nor do we have it.”

McCrory also said the team doesn’t qualify for an incentive grant from the state Commerce department. His comments came during an appearance at the Charlotte Chamber to announce a corporate headquarters relocation.

The decision represents a setback for the Panthers. It comes four days after legislators effectively turned down a city of Charlotte plan that would have given the team $144 million.

Panthers President Danny Morrison said he remains optimistic.

“We have met with state officials multiples times,” he said in a statement. “They have always been supportive of our efforts and indicated the importance of the Panthers to both the State and Charlotte. We are hopeful that ultimately these assurances translate into support for the team.”

Proposals

The city proposed raising the $144 million by doubling its prepared food and beverage tax to 2 percent. In return, the Panthers would agree to keep the team in Charlotte for 15 years. But the city needs legislative approval to raise the tax.

On Thursday a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would instead let the city use existing local taxes for the Panthers. The measure would let the city use existing occupancy and prepared food taxes – now earmarked for tourism and the Charlotte Convention Center – to pay for stadium renovations and amateur sports.

Those taxes would provide enough money to fund $110 million in new debt, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority reported in January. If used just for the stadium, that would still be $34 million less than the team is seeking.

Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble, a lead negotiator in the stadium talks, said last week that those taxes wouldn’t generate enough money for the Panthers, amateur sports and the convention center. He said it wouldn’t be “fiscally prudent nor maybe possible” to support the stadium, the convention center and amateur sports out of the existing revenue sources.

It’s unclear whether the city will make a counterproposal. One council member said last week the city may push for a smaller tax increase. But Monday, Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican and lead sponsor of the bill to help the Panthers with existing taxes, said any bill raising taxes “won’t go anywhere.”

McCrory said the addition of amateur sports to the city’s original proposal, an effort backed by the tourism industry, isn’t helping matters.

“There are a lot of other issues interfering with the initial goal of the Panthers, including amateur sports issues, which is confusing a lot of folks in the legislature right now,” McCrory said.

No incentives

At Monday’s jobs announcement, the governor said Areva, a French-owned energy company, had received a $2.5 million incentive from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant to relocate its North American headquarters to Charlotte. But he apparently closed the door on any similar help for the Panthers.

The governor said the team doesn’t meet the grant’s criteria, which include creating a net increase in employment. Even if it did, he added, the fund used up much of its money under his Democratic predecessor.

“Gov. (Bev) Perdue, in her last three months in office, used up most of the JDIG money,” McCrory said.

Samuelson said McCrory called her Sunday night and told her the state couldn’t help.

“The door for a while appeared to be open for something from Commerce,” she said Monday. “That was the first I heard that door was pretty much closed.”

Samuelson said the team, and city, may have to reset their priorities.

“You still go back to the idea of phased renovations, and can phased renovations work?” she said.

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