Charlotte mayor vows $110m in city funds to help Panthers’ billionaire owner gussy up stadium for MLS

There’s a smidge of new information on the city of Charlotte’s previously revealed plans to spend $100-200 million on renovations to the Carolina Panthers‘ stadium so that Panthers owner David Tepper can add an MLS expansion franchise that seems destined to be officially announced any day now: According to a November letter from Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles to MLS commissioner Don Garber,

Our plans together include … Modifications to Bank of America Stadium to support MLS and provide a world-class fan experience … $110 million in hospitality funds set aside to help ensure a successful venture over the next many years

Lyles neglected to mention that she’ll need the Charlotte city council’s approval to spend $110 million in tax money, but then, that doesn’t seem like it’ll be an obstacle.

Still unexplained is what exactly Tepper needs $110 million in public money for — both in the sense of how he’ll spend it (the Panthers’ stadium is just 23 years old and freshly renovated with the help of previous rounds of tax money) and in the sense of If this billionaire hedge fund manager can afford to drop $300 million on an MLS expansion franchise, why can’t he foot the bill for $110 million in stadium upgrades as well? Which also raises the question of whether the $110 million is really just underwriting Tepper’s record-breaking MLS expansion fee, which would mean the city of Charlotte would be spending public dollars just to shore up the league’s none-dare-call-it-Ponzi model. Or, as Lyles puts it, being “a welcoming, diverse and inclusive community to the league’s 30th team.” Maybe “diverse” here means “not all large bills”?


12 comments on “Charlotte mayor vows $110m in city funds to help Panthers’ billionaire owner gussy up stadium for MLS

  1. Everyone’s goal in life should be to find someone who loves them as much as politicians love giving taxpayer money to billionaires.

  2. I hate to defend this deal, but it is true that MLS demands center entrances, locker rooms, and club areas for all new teams/stadiums. It’s been such a huge revenue booster wherever it’s been done, that the league just isn’t going to believe that a new team in a mid sized market can keep up without it.

    I’m not sure whether center club/entrance upgrades will cost $110 million, so yes perhaps some of this is offsetting Tepper’s expansion fee.

    Charlotte is an interesting case because I don’t think stepper has nearly as much money as has been reported. He will definitely be back for handouts, because he has to make that $2 billion purchase price meet or exceed the returns he would’ve gotten from spending it on a less high profile business.

    • I seriously doubt you could dream of a better return than a NFL franchise, not merely profitability, but also in franchise valuations.

      Conversely the MLS values of Atlanta United are nearly the same AC Milan, the team they imitated. One cannot seriously compare the two without the subsidies that NFL ( by association) and MLS provide.

    • The Colorado Rapids don’t have a center entrance in their Soccer specific stadium, but it doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the game. Maybe a shared entrance is what is needed, but, really, I love soccer, and I can think of better things to do with $200 million.

  3. Ben, I’m sure locker rooms are a huge moneymaker for a league that barely clears $350m in revenue.

  4. MLS “demands” mean nothing. They demand soccer specific stadiums, yet consistently wave that rule for many teams. Their only real demand is a hefty check that clears.

    • I can see MLS passing up Charlotte (for now, anyway) and going with a different city for franchise #30 if they weren’t happy with the center entrances and such.

      I also can’t see how it would cost $110 million for a few smallish renovations, or even if it does why Tepper couldn’t cover it if he wants a soccer team so bad.

      • If Charlotte doesn’t make the “proper” renovations, MLS will go to a city like Indianapolis that’s put public money towards a new stadium. Book it. Tepper can always hold that, and the Charlotte municipal government seems to be going along with it.

  5. It truly amazes me that a lower-tier sports league is able to extract public dollars. I’m not even sure if you can watch the games on TV, nor do I have the faintest hint about the TV contract value.

    This speaks a lot to the utter irrelevance that many citizens give to their local city council.

    • And yet, along with the county, has the most impact on citizens daily lives ….. garbage rates, sewer rates, water rates, city infrastructure, city roads, city zoning and on and on and on.