Panthers stadium bill clears committee

Posted March 14, 2013

— Charlotte would be able to use a set of local tourism taxes to pay for improvements to the Carolina Panther's privately-owned NFL stadium under a bill approved by the House Government Committee Thursday. 

The measure passed on a voice vote after 30 minutes of debate, during which both Republicans and Democrats expressed doubts about the deal. It has to go to the House Finance Committee before getting a vote on the floor and heading over to the Senate. 

"I just can't support this," said Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, saying it amounted to a public subsidy of a private enterprise.

On the opposite side of the ideological spectrum, Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, said he also opposed the deal. 

"We're playing a shell game is what we're doing," Cleveland said, calling the bill a clever attempt to hide the fact that taxpayers would be supporting the team. "The taxpayer dollars might be coming from the Charlotte area, but that's what we are doing."

The bill was drafted by a bipartisan group of Mecklenburg County lawmakers, including Republican Reps. Ruth Samuelson and Bill Brawley and Democratic Reps. Becky Carney and Beverly Earl.

It allows the city to reallocate hotel occupancy tax and food and beverage taxes originally levied for other purposes to Bank of America Stadium renovations. It does not allow for the use of any state tax dollars and does not allow the city to raise any of its local taxes above current rates. Those terms fall far short of the terms originally requested by the team and the city, but senior lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory said they would not approve a tax increase for the team.

"I will personally and publicly say I think their initial approach was a mistake," Samuelson said, adding, "This is not the year to do an increase in tax."

One curious feature of the tax deal is that any improvements the city pays for with public dollars would be owned by the city of Charlotte, despite the rest of the stadium being owned by a private company controlled by Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. The city owns the land under the stadium. 

A major motivation for the deal, Samuelson said, would be to keep the team in Charlotte. Richardson is 76 years old, and NFL rules require the team to be sold to a new owner after his death. Already, she said, there has been interest from a Los Angeles ownership group interested in moving the team to California.

"There's not a tether holding the team to the Carolinas area," Samuelson said. Allowing the city to invest in upgrades would provide that legal connection, at least over the next decade or so. 

The bill passed on a close voice vote, but nobody in the committee called for the ayes and nays.

Rep. Rayne Brown, R-Davidson, expressed reservations about the bill, saying that Charlotte already had enough public debt. But she said she would back the measure because it forced the city to choose among its various priorities.

Brown also added that she held some of the personal seat licenses used to finance the original construction of the stadium.

"I don't have a dog in the fight, even though I own PSLs," she said. "They haven't been very good lately."


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  • Nancy Mar 15, 2013

    "if any of my tax dollas are given for the panthers stadium then i'm gonna cheat on my state taxes--- chew on that state irs people."

    Did you bother to read the article? Do you live in Charlotte, are you a tourist paying tourism taxes (hotels specifically)? If not, don't sweat it, the state isn't picking up the tab, just visitors to Charlotte who get to pay added tourist taxes for hotel rooms.

  • Terkel Mar 14, 2013

    Wait a minute - whose name is on the stadium? Didn't we bail them out rather hugely after they contributed to the collapse of the economy and housing sector?

    Yeah, let's give them more public money.

  • wildpig777 Mar 14, 2013

    if any of my tax dollas are given for the panthers stadium then i'm gonna cheat on my state taxes--- chew on that state irs people.

  • imback Mar 14, 2013

    "San Diego is in the process of building a stadium..." Uhavenoclu

    No they aren't.

  • mattw4205 Mar 14, 2013

    "I would not lose one minute of sleep if the Panthers went somewhere else."

    Do you live in Charlotte?

    Nope, I live in Raleigh. I also would not lose any sleep if the 'Canes were to leave either.

    you're clearly not informed enough if you think an NHL team leaving would have an equal impact of an NFL team leaving. Plus NCSU would still use that arena & generate revenue. Do you realize how bad it would be to have an empty NFL stadium sitting in the DT area of Charlotte?

  • superflames Mar 14, 2013

    It does seem like a bad faith move to re-allocate tax dollars collected for one purpose to another bucket. That's what the feds did with Social Security funds years ago....

    It's hard to discern if Charlotte area leaders are acting according to their constituents wishes. Why not put the matter to a referendum and have the Charlotte area residents vote on it?

  • mattw4205 Mar 14, 2013

    Then you have no skin in the game as well. If you owned a business that reaped revenue from this sport, or if your employment was tied to the success of the stadium or team, you'd care. From the comments on this blog, it looks like middle school is out today. None of this has anything to do with the NFL or the Panthers, EXCEPT if they move and then the ripple effects from that will be felt for a long long time. I wonder how many millions of dollars of revenue are generated in 1 year from this stadium? How many businesses depend on the activities at the stadium as support for their business? It might be a hard pill for the "non sports" citizen to swallow, but lowering taxes, paying less for performing athletes, NFL not paying taxes just to save money has nothing to do with this issue at all.

    Well said and thank you. The team leaving would have a major effect on the economy of Charlotte and NC as a whole. The state gov. would come looking for a way to replace those lost revenues

  • issymayake Mar 14, 2013

    I would miss the Panthers if they were to leave, but I seriously doubt that the other owners would allow this to happen. If any team is likely to relocate to LA it's the Chargers or the Jaguars.

    San Diego is in the process of building a stadium...Plus they have more then 5 fans unlike the Jags and sorry L.A.has a-lot more pride then to want them.They are a joke.It would most likely be the Vikes?.

    Glad they got the stadium issue worked out. LA hasn't had football in fifteen years. . if they are that proud, then the NFL is right not to even seek an expansion team there. The balance is perfect at 32 and they shouldn't upset that.

  • EvanRude Mar 14, 2013

    At least the US government got ownership positions in GM and AIG for their "investment". I used to think positively of Jerry Richardson but this changes everything.

  • European American Mar 14, 2013

    It allows the city to reallocate hotel occupancy tax and food and beverage taxes originally levied for other purposes... Those "other purposes" will now be funded by State taxes, which per the bill is legal. Nice attempt by the GOP to HIDE what they're doing.