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.