Panthers want $187m in public subsidies for promise to stay put for 10 years

The Charlotte Business Journal has more details on the Carolina Panthers stadium renovation talks, and it turns out that owner Jerry Richardson now plans to ask for $125 million in city money, plus $62.5 million from the state. In exchange, the Panthers would commit to remaining in town for … ten whole years. Even though the increased city restaurant tax to pay for the renovations would last for 15 years.

Asking for nearly $200 million in renovations for a stadium that is privately owned and is only 16 years old might raise some eyebrows, but everybody’s favorite owner-friendly stadium consultant Marc Ganis is on hand to explain why this is totally reasonable:

Bank of America Stadium could last 35 years, “but it must have a major upgrade in this 20-year cycle,” said Marc Ganis, a consultant to franchises in the NFL and other sports. “The cycles are shortening. It’s not that the concrete is worse, it’s not that the seats aren’t built as well, it’s the revenue-enhancement technology and fan expectations that are moving at an accelerated rate.”

In case you’ve never run across the term “revenue-enhancement technology” (and are picturing something along the lines of this), that means “stuff that lets the team sell more crap, mostly advertisements but more overpriced food wouldn’t hurt either.” And “fan expectations” translates as “people want to have a giant video screen as clear as their hi-def TVs back home, especially since their seats are probably so far from the field that they can’t tell who’s playing (not that anybody can identify three-quarters of the people in a football game anyway).”

The key word in Ganis’ quote, though, is “must.” As in, okay, the Panthers want all this stuff so they can make more money — why, again, should the city and state be paying for it? Just because Richardson could move the team to Los Angeles if he wanted (and be stuck with owning an empty stadium back in Charlotte, and all that’s if you even think an L.A. NFL stadium has much chance of happening anytime soon in the first place).

Still, North Carolina lawmakers appear to be taking these demands seriously — all of which just goes to show that the NFL would be absolutely crazy to let a team move to L.A. anytime soon, since the threat of L.A. is proving way more lucrative than an actual L.A. team would be. The Minnesota Vikings already got a huge pile of public money by waving the L.A. threat flag, and now we have the Panthers, the San Diego Chargers, the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins, the Oakland Raiders, and probably a few other teams I’m forgetting all trying to do the same thing. They can’t all move to L.A. at once, of course — which is why it’s important for the NFL to make sure nobody moves there, or else the threat won’t work anymore. This hostage-taking business is harder than it looks.

11 comments on “Panthers want $187m in public subsidies for promise to stay put for 10 years

  1. That last bit… Can’t possibly fathom the owners actually wanting a team in LA. The second there’s a team in LA, how are they going to possibly hoodwink lawmakers into forking over public money? I really, really want a mayor or governor to call an owner’s bluff. Just for the good of 31 other cities/states.

  2. Doubtful. Ask Arsenal how easy and cheap it is to get a stadium built in London (or maybe ask the players that got sold as the club tried to pay off the bonds for the stadium because they built it themselves). And unless a team is going to be able to rent Wembley 8-10 times a year (doubtful given that the English probably want a decent playing surface for cup matches and World Cup and Euro qualifiers), they are going to need a stadium. I’m not sure English politicians will be lining up to give American billionaires subsidies for another stadium in London.

    Also there is the slight problem that the NFL isn’t nearly as popular in London as the league might want you to believe. One game might sell well, but that’s because everyone (business-wise that is) in England has an American client they want to entertain and that is an enormous ticket draw for that reason. A full schedule would still be a very hard sell.

  3. I never payed attention that much, or researched that much, about these stadiums/arenas (I refuse to ever say “stadia”); until the Seattle NBA arena proposal showed up last year. Since, then it all seems disgusting. I have always liked sports; but the subsidy, and the lies to gain the subsidy, have me now despising sports. Selling hospitals, selling parking, all to hand to extremely wealthy people. It is disgusting, and there is no excuse for it. Soon, I will start despising the fans.

  4. Michael, London will be used as the new threat if teams move to LA, it doesn’t have to be plausible. None of your reasons for why London wont work are any more valid than the 20 years of reasons why LA wont work. London actually has the NFL, NOW.

  5. John, yes you can watch the NFL in London. No, nobody does. There are literally two bars in London that hosts game-watching Sundays that draw any kind of a crowd. Maybe 20-30 people. Mostly ex-pats. I was there for about 6 months for work. The NFL might really want to go to London. And they might want people to think London wants them (I think Robert Kraft this year finally made some sensible comments about how it might not be viable). Sure an owner can threaten, but it’s not a cromulent threat.

  6. There has never in the history of professional sports in America, any history of a team moving when the team OWNS the stadium in which they play!!! So any talk of the Panthers moving is just that TALK!!!

  7. The Panthers can knock on the city of Raleigh’s door and ask to get a new stadium built near or close to PNC Arena where the Carolina Hurricanes play their home games. If not there than somewhere else in Raleigh.

  8. Neil, I am not sure that O’Malley owned Ebbetts Field. If he indeed own Ebbetts Field, I stand corrected.

  9. He did until 1956, when he sold it to a real estate developer then leased it back for the team’s final year in Brooklyn. I think that counts.