The following letter is published in today's edition of the Charlotte Business Journal:
The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce fully supports an effort to provide public funds for the renovation of Bank of America Stadium. Renovations paid for with tax revenues provide an opportunity to tie the team to Charlotte no matter what happens to the ownership team in the future.
The Carolina Panthers have been an asset to the State of North Carolina and the Charlotte region since before their debut season in 1995. Tremendous excitement was generated around our quest for the team. The effort brought together elected and business leaders from two states.
Since 1995, the Carolina Panthers have consistently contributed to our economic growth and well-being. The team is a part of the total package we present to companies considering relocating here. That package also includes arts & culture, public schools, our universities and our community college. Company executives like to see many different opportunities for their employees in the community they are considering.
According to an economic impact study by the University of South Carolina College of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management, the Carolina Panthers have an estimated total annual economic impact of $636 million. Of that, $361.5 million is in direct impact of employment, tax revenues, etc. According to the study, over 6,388 permanent jobs result directly or indirectly from the operations of the team and the stadium.
Other communities have lost NFL teams to the offer of a new or renovated stadium. There are stadiums around the country recently built or renovated waiting for an available team. Even Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said on his recent visit to Charlotte, “No mayor who has played the stadium game has won.” We trust team owner Jerry Richardson is committed to Charlotte. What we don’t know is whether the next ownership team will be.
We need to support the renovations to Bank of America stadium that will allow us to enter into an agreement that will guarantee the team cannot leave for 15 years, no matter who owns it. The team will continue to contribute to our economy and will continue to attract companies and people looking for the amenities Charlotte has to offer.
The Charlotte City Council has, by a large margin, tentatively approved a proposal that has the city contributing $143.75 million for renovations matched by a $96.25 million pledge from the Carolina Panthers. The North Carolina General Assembly must approve the plan to increase the current 1 percent rate of the prepared food and beverage tax with a 30 year sunset. The Panthers have also requested that the state of North Carolina invest $62.5 million in the project.
We’re not sure that proposal is exactly how we arrive at the $250 million needed for the renovations. We are sure that the Carolina Panthers belong in Charlotte, North Carolina. We’re also sure that the North Carolina General Assembly, the Charlotte City Council and the Carolina Panthers can work together on the right funding mix. And, finally, we’re sure we need to move with haste.