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In 7-3 vote, Charlotte City Council approves $650M for Bank of America Stadium renovations

The city of Charlotte is proposing to spend $650 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium.
Carolina Panthers
The city of Charlotte is proposing to spend $650 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium.

The Charlotte City Council voted 7-3 Monday night to approve spending $650 million worth of tax money to help renovate Bank of America Stadium.

Under the deal, Tepper Sports and Entertainment would contribute $150 million of its own money to the improvements in the next four years, for a total of $800 million, and would then spend roughly $420 million more on the stadium in the decade after that, from 2029 to 2039.

The Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC would agree to stay in the city for at least 15 years.

Council members Malcolm Graham, Dante Anderson, James Mitchell, LaWana Mayfield, Tariq Bokhari and Ed Driggs voted for the deal.

Dimple Ajmera, Renee Johnson and Tiawana Brown voted no. Victoria Watlington didn't attend the meeting.

Driggs said the stadium is an economic driver for the city.

"Be grateful for the opportunity that we get two sports franchises, and everything else that comes with this, based on an investment that will need exceed the $650 (million)," Driggs said.

Bokhari said he thought the deal was the best stadium deal in the nation in recent years.

And Marjorie Molina praised Tepper Sports’ pledge to the deal will help women and minority-owned businesses with more than a quarter of spending on the project.

"Twenty-seven percent MWSBE means that there 27% of our community will experience an economic impact that can change their family's lives, and that means a lot," she said.

During the discussion, Ajmera, Johnson, Brown and Mayfield said they wanted more information about the deal and how it is structured.

Molina said that Monday's vote wouldn't be final and that council members would get another "touchpoint" for the project when they vote later this year on how to finance the $650 million. She suggested that council members could adjust the contract then if there were problems.

That led Ajmera to ask city attorney Patrick Baker whether that was really true.

"Is this financing vote going to be a meaningful opportunity to revisit the contract?" Ajmera asked.

Baker said it was not. Said Baker: "It would not be a meaningful opportunity to revisit the contract."

Brown said she was dismayed by Carolina Panthers owner Tepper’s behavior. Tepper threw a drink on a fan last season during a loss to Jacksonville.

"The behavior of someone that's asking us for $650 million is ridiculous," she said. "(A) $300,000 fine for that. How much would city council have to pay?"

The city’s $650 million would come from tourism taxes on hotel rooms and restaurant and bar tabs. State law prohibits the city from using the money on other priorities, such as affordable housing, transit or higher police salaries.

But some of the money could be used for other tourism projects, like a long-planned renovation of Discovery Place that’s been put on hold.

As the Charlotte City Council votes Monday on spending $650 million to improve Bank of America Stadium, Tepper Sports and Entertainment wants to start negotiating in 2037 on building a new stadium.

Despite the large sums of money at stake, Charlotte City Council asked few tough questions about the deal during the planning process and were largely supportive. At a committee meeting earlier this month, Anderson said it has been “a great honor” to work on the deal.

She then asked Panthers President Kristi Coleman the very definition of a softball question: “Do you think that this will help make Charlotte a world-class city?”

Coleman told her “absolutely.”

Anderson was pleased.

“That’s excellent,” she said.

The outline of the agreement calls for the city to begin negotiating with Tepper Sports and Entertainment in 2037 over the terms of building a new stadium that would open by 2046.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.
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