Charlotte newspaper to new Panthers owners: Here’s how to shake us down for stadium cash

So I know I’ve poked fun before at the Charlotte news media for wondering aloud about how to meet the new Carolina Panthers owners’ demands for a new stadium when the new owners haven’t even been selected yet, let alone have they made any stadium demands. But, guys, this is getting seriously nuts.

Here, for your perusal, is an article from today’s Charlotte Observer, an actual newspaper, about all the ways that a prospective Panthers owner could extort stadium money from taxpayers, and which ones would work best:

  1. “We need a new stadium built outside Uptown Charlotte.” Unlikely to work, says Tom Regan, graduate director of the University of South Carolina’s sport and entertainment management department, because it’s too hard to get to the outskirts of town, just look at how the San Francisco 49ers are suffering in Santa Clara. (Which probably isn’t actually the reason for the 49ers’ woes, but whatever.)
  2. “A new domed stadium will draw frequent major events.” They only play the Super Bowl and Final Four once a year each, so they wouldn’t be in Charlotte very often regardless.
  3. “A major retrofit on Bank of America Stadium is necessary.” The place is only 22 years old and just got a significant taxpayer-funded upgrade, seriously?
  4. “If you don’t give us what we want, we’ll find a city that will.” “Given the current ownership structure of the Panthers and ongoing renovations (and lease agreements) at BOA,” says Vanderbilt sports economist John Vrooman, “the new majority ownership partner will probably be from or have strong financial ties to sweet home Carolina, and the Panthers are not likely to engage a credible franchise-relocation stadium-extortion game for at least another decade.”
  5. “We’ve upgraded, but there are still things city could help us do.”
    Add more suites at public expense, maybe, suggests Regan? Who could say no to that, right?

None of this specific analysis is incorrect, per se — in fact, it sounds like the Observer polled a bunch of stadium experts and got back, “The Panthers don’t really have much reason to complain or much leverage.” But the thrust of the article itself — trying to figure out which arguments for getting public stadium money might work best, like you’re a consultant to the team’s new owners rather than, you know, a journalism outlet — remains nuts, and is even more so when you consider the headline:

‘Stadium extortion’ arguments for Panthers ‘folly,’ industry experts say – except one

Except even Regan didn’t say that demanding more upgrades like suites wasn’t “folly” — in fact, he said, “When I look at stadiums on the East Coast – outside of the domes — Charlotte has one of the nicer stadiums.” So the Observer is really bending over backwards here to find some way to spin this as “Charlotte needs to do something for the Panthers.” I’d expect better from a major newspaper, but then, I’d also expect a headline that doesn’t make it sound like “one industry expert” is the exception, not one stadium extortion argument, so clearly I’m not hep to the ways of 21st-century journalism.

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7 comments on “Charlotte newspaper to new Panthers owners: Here’s how to shake us down for stadium cash

  1. “When I look at stadiums on the East Coast – outside of the domes — Charlotte has one of the nicer stadiums.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only large football dome on the east coast is in Atlanta, right? He should’ve said “Charlotte is the nicest stadium on the east coast, save for the single billion and a half dollar dome that’s not yet fully operational.”

  2. Neil, in your opinion does it seem like there are always (nearly) immediate “stadium investments” once a team is purchased or changes hands?

    Tx Rangers, Atl Hawks, Brooklyn fiasco, Redwings/Pistons, and of course StL/La Rams?

    Seems like (to me) once someone gets their hands on a team the first thing they want is someone to write them a check bigger than the one they wrote for the whole team.

  3. Not the Buffalo Bills, though, and probably I could think of some other examples.

    I’d say that all owners always want someone to write them a large check, it’s just a matter of having an excuse to demand one. And being a new owner often serves that purpose, even if “Why’d you buy the team for so much if you’re unhappy with the stadium?” would seem a reasonable retort.

  4. ” I’d expect better from a major newspaper”

    I am being a little facetious, but have you ever actually read a major newspaper? “journalism” is about 1/20th as noble as its practitioners like to pretend it is.

    1. Forgive me, I saw “All the President’s Men” as a child and had my expectations raised for life.

      1. I guess I bought into that line on journalism until I was maybe 17-18, then I started encountering actual journalism and journalists in the real world.

        I honesty think lawyers are more reputable/noble on average.

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