Charlotte council, behind closed doors, votes to okay $144m in tax money for Panthers

The Charlotte city council voted on Friday to approve public subsidies for Carolina Panthers stadium renovations … or at least, we assume they voted. The council meeting on Friday with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Mayor Anthony Foxx took place in closed session, so all we have is a press release issued by the city, in which it said Charlotte will raise restaurant taxes by 1% for 15 years to provide $143.75 million in cash for the Panthers to redo their privately built and owned stadium.

The council already voted 7-2 last month to endorse the idea, so none of this was a surprise exactly. But tell us, Mayor Foxx, exactly why was this necessary?

“If we had not made this decision, at some point in the future the team would’ve been sold and moved away…we would’ve felt that loss, economically. We would feel it from the standpoint of the psychology this community has enjoyed over the years,” Mayor Foxx said.

Well, okay, if there really was a threat of the team moving, then it’s arguable that you can put a price tag on that and—

“I never would want our team to move somewhere else. I never said that,” Richardson said after the city council’s closed-session meeting.

You know, owners and mayors have been playing this game for years, but it’s still amazing how they manage to pull it off: Team owners are able to get the benefit of a move threat while still publicly denying up and down that they’re making a move threat, thus avoiding the wrath of their fan base. They can only manage it when mayors are willing to play along and be their water carriers, as happened again on Friday:

Mayor Foxx says he’s concerned about “poachers”. He says there are cities that are building stadiums but don’t have NFL teams.

Right, like… like… Okay, there aren’t actually any cities building NFL-ready stadium that don’t have teams, but why quibble over a detail like that?

Here’s another one:

Mayor Reed says “no mayor or city council have played the stadium game and won.” He says a city without an NFL team will likely languish.

What Mayor Reed is saying here is — wait a minute. Mayor Reed? He’s not the mayor of Charlotte, he’s the mayor of Atlanta. Why is the mayor of Atlanta addressing the Charlotte city council about giving money to the Panthers?

Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta addressed the group and told them “Atlanta is where it is because people made tough decisions.” He says he came to share lessons with Charlotte “as you all go through some of the issues that look and feel a lot alike.”

I could go on trying to rebut the arguments here, but really, when you bring in this guy to address your stadium meeting, I think it’s clear that you’re not interested in hearing any dissident voices on public stadium funding. The Panthers subsidy deal now heads for the state legislature, which has been asked for $62.5 million towards the plan. No word yet on how the legislature might vote, but you have to hope they won’t invite Jerry Jones as their economic expert.


5 comments on “Charlotte council, behind closed doors, votes to okay $144m in tax money for Panthers

  1. “Mayor Reed says “no mayor or city council have played the stadium game and won.” He says a city without an NFL team will likely languish.”

    Yeah, LA has sunk into second-tier status among US cities. And everybody knows “major league” cities aren’t chosen by the NFL to host its teams, it’s being chosen by the NFL that makes them “major league”.

    Once more, the concept of fiduciary responsibility gets a shrug and a “Go away, you’re bothering me.” Mayors Foxx and Reed, for taking the lead in negotiating –against– the best interests of your own constituents, you get this week’s “Worst People In The World”.

  2. “Mayor Reed says “no mayor or city council have played the stadium game and won.” He says a city without an NFL team will likely languish.”
    That’s a lie. At the time Jerry Jones wanted handouts, the mayor of Dallas. Laura Miller and the Mayor of Irving at the time did! Irving even publicly said losing the Cowflops would impact their economy by less than one percent.

    Jerry Jones tried to play hardball with Irving, Dallas and Arlington. Two of them told him to take a hike and that was before it came out that he already had a secret deal with Arlington. The only thing Arlington gained was a vacuum cleaner that sucks up money from the local economy and puts it in a nice bag to be carried out of the area.

    One of the reasons there was such strong political opposition was the AA Arena “deal” in Dallas was so one-sided. Of course the other reason was that Dallas was broke, partially because of that deal.

  3. Cujo:

    Very true. It’s tempting to think that every community is run by morons. But it isn’t always so… many communities have refused the racketeering ways of professional sports leagues/owners. But they seem to get little press beyond some halfwit on TV saying “They lost their team, now the city is in ruins”.

    Which, generally speaking, they aren’t. I’ve yet to hear of city closing schools, selling hospitals, or laying off cops solely because they didn’t acquiesce to pro sports extortion. But some who have made that deal have certainly been forced to.

    I just wish the good folks in Arlington had made it a condition that Jones change the name of the team to the Arlington Cowboys… now that would have been funny…

  4. John Bladen: But they seem to get little press beyond some halfwit on TV saying “They lost their team, now the city is in ruins”.

    Yep. Look how Irving fell apart. That stadium was there for 30 years and the only thing around were body shops and other commercial uses. The same thing goes for the Cowflops Death Star. It’s a large building built in the middle of a parking lot, of course it’s going to have nothing around it that depends on a lot of traffic going past like malls, restaurants or any cultural events.
    The old Texas stadium site is now being rebuilt as a site that generates revenue, employment and will eventually attract homes.

    Look at the stadiums that are in a business and entertainment area like in Denver and, to some extent, Seattle. They actually make sense and businesses can build around that. If there’s no mass transportation possible to get to the event, potential customers won’t stick around or come early.

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