Panthers seek help for stadium improvements

Panthers seek help for stadium improvements

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) When Charlotte landed a National Football League franchise 20 years ago, city leaders were ecstatic, calling it a critical step in putting North Carolina's largest city on the map.

It seemed that the city's explosive growth - when it became a major financial industry center - coincided with the rise of the Panthers.

But now the city and the franchise are at a crossroads. The Carolina Panthers want to renovate the outdoor 74,000-seat Bank of America Stadium.

And the team is asking the public for help.

On Monday, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and team President Danny Morrison met with new Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis to discuss the multimillion-dollar project. Both politicians are from the Charlotte area, and McCrory was the city's mayor for 14 years. His first term was in 1995, the Panthers' inaugural season.

Tillis said Tuesday that discussions have been preliminary but that there are fears from city and state leaders that the Pantherscould move if they don't receive help.

Tillis said he's treating the Panthers like any other large business in North Carolina. He said the team creates 4,400 direct jobs and an estimated 1,500 indirect jobs. Moving the team out of the state is a real concern, Tillis said.

``They are a major employer in North Carolina,'' said Tillis, adding that he meets with major businesses in the state ``that are considering moving somewhere else, and that is a very real possibility for the Panthers.''

He said, though, there haven't been many details so far about what the team wants.

``I've been clear with the Panthers organization that it is not appropriate to have state taxpayer dollars go directly into the stadium, so that's more or less a level set on our part,'' he said.

Two weeks ago, Richardson met with City Council in a private session to talk about the money.

The city has been doing most of the negotiations behind closed doors. The Panthers are seeking money from both the city and state to help offset the proposed $250 million project.

One possible funding source: Doubling the prepared food and beverage tax to 2 percent. The state's General Assembly would have to approve the tax increase.

In Charlotte, people are talking about it.

``We should do everything we can to save the Panthers,'' said Troy Taylor, 44, a financial analyst and Panthers fan. ``It's an NFL team. It helps with the city's profile - especially when they play on national TV. They've become a big part of the city.''

But Shirley Parker wonders if the team should ask for taxpayer dollars.

``Do they really need the money? Why can't they pay for it themselves? Why do sports teams always turn to the public?'' asked the 55-year-old teacher.

Mayor Anthony Foxx has declined to discuss the talks. But he said this week that the city would like to build on the success of this past summer's three-day Democratic National Convention, which drew 35,000 people to Charlotte and pumped nearly $164 million into the local economy. That includes bidding to host a Super Bowl.

Charlotte is home to the headquarters of Bank of America and major operations for Wells Fargo, two of the largest U.S. financial institutions. Both are in the central business district, within walking distance of the stadium.

The Panthers' stadium, which cost $190 million, was completed in 1996.

It was paid for with private money collected through the sale of permanent seat licenses or PSLs, with the Panthers being the first NFL franchise to use that marketing model to raise money.

Seventeen years later, Bank of America Stadium is considered a middle-aged stadium by NFL standards. Of the 31 stadiums in the league - the Giants and Jets share one in New Jersey - 25 have either been built or undergone renovations in excess of $100 million since the Panthers opened their facility. Three others in Atlanta, San Francisco and Minnesota are in the midst of either rebuilding or new stadium construction.

Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium is considered a comparable stadium and it received a $375 million facelift in 2010.

The Panthers invested more than $48 million in recent years on new scoreboards, club level seating and upgraded workout and equipment rooms.

Public stadiums dotted the map for most of the 20th century, but the pace of public-private partnerships for new construction or renovation projects has accelerated over the past two decades.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones now controls a $1.15 billion stadium that Arlington, Texas, voters helped finance with increases in sales and hotel taxes. In Indianapolis, the state owns 4-year-old Lucas Oil Stadium, for which the state, city and surrounding counties covered most of the $720 million construction cost.


Gary D. Robertson contributed to the story

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars


3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report


Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report

Free agent pass rusher Pernell McPhee visited the Redskins on Monday, and by Tuesday night a report emerged that Washington offered the veteran outside linebacker a contract.

Last week, Trent Murphy signed with the Buffalo Bills and things remain uncertain between the Redskins and Junior Galette. That means the organization has a need for an edge rushing linebacker, and that's exactly the role McPhee can play. 

A 29-year-old that played the last three seasons with the Bears, McPhee posted 14 sacks while in Chicago. Prior to his time with the Bears, McPhee was a solid contributor on some good Ravens teams. 


His best season in Baltimore came in 2014 when he posted 7.5 sacks. That's also the last season McPhee played a full 16 game schedule. He's missed 12 games over the last three years in Chicago. 

McPhee could provide the Redskins with solid veteran depth at outside linebacker, and he's also considered a plus defender against the run. With Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith cemented as the starting outside linebackers, if signed, McPhee would pair up with Ryan Anderson on Washington's second unit. At 6-foot-2 and 275 lbs., McPhee carries more weight on his frame than either Kerrigan or Smith. 

Pro Football Focus gave McPhee a strong grade for the 2017 season. He notched a +11.5 and ranked 13th out of 46 outside linebackers graded. For comparison, Broncos star Von Miller ranked 1st at +57, Kerrigan ranked 8th at +22.9 and Galette ranked 10th at +16.2.

It's unclear what a move for McPhee would mean between the Redskins and Galette, but it's hard to imagine it helps.

Free agent Johnathan Hankins also visited Washington on Monday, and while he plays an interior defensive line position different from McPhee, it's also unclear what this offer would do to any negotiations between the Redskins and Hankins. 

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