The North Carolina house of representatives introduced a bill yesterday to allow Charlotte to use restaurant taxes to fund renovations to the Carolina Panthers‘ stadium — but there’s a catch. Instead of allowing the city to double its existing restaurant tax from 1% to 2% as it was requesting, the house bill would only allow the use of existing restaurant tax money for the Panthers. Which, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which collects the restaurant tax, would only leave enough money to pay for $110 million in stadium upgrades, not the $144 million that the Panthers have asked for from the city.
Also, that restaurant tax money is currently being set aside for upgrades to the city’s convention center, so if it’s spent on the Panthers, it would no longer be available for that. (The Charlotte Observer reports that bill sponsor Rep. Ruth Samuelson “acknowledged that with less money, the city would have to make choices.”) Plus, there’s still no word on the $62.5 million in direct funding that the Panthers have asked for from the state, though Samuelson indicated that it could come directly from the governor’s office.
Right now, this leaves the Panthers with at least a $34 million budget hole, and Charlotte with a good bit more than that if the city doesn’t want to empty its pockets for the team. One Charlotte councilmember suggested maybe the city could offer a smaller tax hike instead — say, 0.5% over 15 years instead of 1% over 30 — but given that Samuelson said “there’s no stomach here for a tax increase,” it’s unclear whether that would go over any better. It’s far from a major roadblock — the Panthers could always, for example, scale back their plans for the scoreboard to replace the one they haven’t built yet — but as the first sign of any serious pushback that the team has received to its plans so far, it’s well worth watching.