Carolina Panthers seeking public help to renovate stadium

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When Charlotte landed a National Football League franchise 20 years ago, city leaders were ecstatic, calling it a critical step in putting North Carolina's largest city on the map.

But now the city and the team are at a crossroads. The Carolina Panthers want to renovate the outdoor 74,000-seat Bank of America Stadium.

And the team is asking the public for help.

On Monday, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and team President Danny Morrison met with new Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis to discuss the multimillion-dollar project. Both politicians 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.

Tillis said Tuesday that discussions have been preliminary but that there are fears from city and state leaders that the Panthers could move if they don't receive help.

Tillis said he's treating the Panthers like any other large business in North Carolina. He said the team creates 4,400 direct jobs and an estimated 1,500 indirect jobs. Moving the team out of the state is a real concern, Tillis said.

"They are a major employer in North Carolina," said Tillis, adding that he meets with major businesses in the state "that are considering moving somewhere else, and that is a very real possibility for the Panthers."

He said, though, there haven't been many details so far about what the team wants.

"I've been clear with the Panthers organization that it is not appropriate to have state taxpayer dollars go directly into the stadium, so that's more or less a level set on our part," he said.

The city has been doing most of the negotiations behind closed doors. The Panthers are seeking money from both the city and state to help offset the proposed $250 million project.

One possible funding source: Doubling the prepared food and beverage tax to 2 percent. The state's General Assembly would have to approve the tax increase.

The Panthers' stadium, which cost $190 million, was completed in 1996.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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