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Charlotte council backs Panthers $144M for stadium upgrades

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Associated Press
2/8/2013 7:35:47 PM
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte's City Council has agreed to a plan that would give the Carolina Panthers nearly $144 million from a food-and-beverage tax hike to pay for upgrades to its downtown stadium, Mayor Anthony Foxx said Friday.

Foxx said North Carolina General Assembly approval would be needed for the city to increase its prepared food-and-beverage tax by one cent. That part of the deal hasn't been settled.

The money would be paid over 15 years and requires the team to stay in Charlotte for that period of time. That would resolve concerns from city officials that the Panthers could relocate the franchise to another city.

Team officials declined comment on the announcement, referring all questions to city officials. However, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson addressed the concerns that the team would leave town if a deal couldn't be reached.

"I never would want our team to move somewhere else. I never said that," Richardson said after the city council's closed-session meeting.

The Panthers are proposing $250 million in upgrades to Bank of America Stadium, including additional escalators to help fans more easily reach the upper deck, and better video boards.

Richardson and team President Danny Morrison last month met with new Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis to discuss the multimillion-dollar project. Both elected officials are from the Charlotte area, and McCrory was the city's mayor for 14 years. His first term was in 1995, the Panthers' inaugural season.

The Panthers' stadium, which cost $190 million, was completed in 1996. It was paid for with private money collected through the sale of permanent seat licenses, or PSLs, with the Panthers being the first NFL franchise to use that marketing model to raise money.

Seventeen years later, Bank of America Stadium is considered a middle-aged stadium by NFL standards. Of the 31 stadiums in the league -- the Giants and Jets share one in New Jersey -- 25 have either been built or undergone renovations in excess of $100 million since the Panthers opened their facility. Three other franchises-- in Atlanta, San Francisco and Minnesota -- are in the midst of either rebuilding or new stadium construction.

Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium is considered a comparable stadium and it received a $375 million facelift in 2010.

The Panthers invested more than $48 million in recent years on new scoreboards, club level seating and upgraded workout and equipment rooms.

Panthers celebrates (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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