Note: This week Charlotte Chamber of Commerce President Bob Morgan encouraged the N.C. General Assembly to act more urgently in addressing the opportunity to secure the presence of the NFL Carolina Panthers in Charlotte and the state of North Carolina. Excerpts of his remarks in response to questions from members include:
How many times does a public official have the chance to secure a payroll of $2.8 billion for their state’s economy? That's the question now facing members of North Carolina's General Assembly as they consider whether or not and how to participate in the effort to renovate Bank of America Stadium. Their decision could determine the future of the NFL in Charlotte and our state.
Consider the math. The payroll of the Carolina Panthers is approximately $150 million annually. For away games, Carolina Panthers players pay income taxes in the state where the game is played; conversely, opposing teams' players pay income taxes to North Carolina at home games.
The Panthers and the City of Charlotte have proposed a deal that would tether the team to Charlotte and North Carolina for the next 15 years. Multiplied by 15 years, today’s payroll of $150 million will generate $2.25 billion over the next 15 years. If you add a three percent annual increase, which is reasonable, that number grows to $2.8 billion over 15 years. That kind of a payroll will generate and support thousands of jobs beyond the Panthers. During that same time, the State of North Carolina is projected to directly collect an estimated $300 million in various tax revenues from the Panthers and the NFL.
For those who would object to public participation in the effort to secure the NFL/Panthers presence in Charlotte and North Carolina, the question must be asked, how would they propose to make up the revenue that would contribute to our economy and to the funding of state government services?
Let's be clear, this isn't about the current ownership, rather about who the future owner will be. In all likelihood, Los Angeles will secure one or two NFL teams within the next decade. Will we choose to remain a part of the NFL equation or become a former major league football city with a fenced-in stadium surrounded by weeds?
If the State of North Carolina stands to receive nearly $300 million in tax revenues from the Panthers over the next 15 years, that's a solid business decision. Even if it means giving us the right to tax ourselves to keep the team here, we think legislators owe it to the state and the organization to seriously consider it.
In Buffalo, a major renovation deal was just struck that includes the team putting up $35 million, the county $41 million and the state $54 million, all in return for a tether of only 10 years. Buffalo and Atlanta have fought for their franchises. North Carolina needs to consider a deal and fight for its franchise as well.
There is no doubt that the Panthers have benefited from the support they have received from the citizens, businesses and public sector in our region, and the land deal that brought them here. Charlotte and North Carolina have benefited enormously from the Panthers in direct economic impact as well as the intangible status they provide to us as a major league, NFL city.
For 20 years the Panthers have had one of the most taxpayer-friendly and owner-unfriendly stadium deals in the league. As other NFL cities have stepped up to renovate or build new stadiums, including Atlanta and Buffalo most recently, we need to do the same.