Redskins

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.

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Gary D. Robertson contributed to the story

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Landon Collins: 'You never know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're getting'

Landon Collins: 'You never know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're getting'

Kirk Cousins started 57 games during six seasons with the Redskins and, well, um, it's hard to come up with one word to describe his time in Washington. 

There were certainly highs, none higher than the hot streak Cousins went on late in 2015 to capture an NFC East title. The Redskins closed that season on a four-game win streak where Cousins threw 12 touchdowns against just one interception. 

There were also lows. In Week 17 of 2016, the Redskins needed a win in the season finale to get in the playoffs while the Giants had already clinched the NFC East title. The Redskins had everything to play for, the Giants ended up resting a number of their starters. Still, the Redskins lost, and Cousins threw a dagger interception late in the game to seal their fate. For the game, Cousins finished with 287 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, but the pick to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the season killer. 

The point here is not to drag Cousins. He was the most durable and most stable quarterback the Redskins have had in decades. He never got hurt, and while he turned the ball over, he could deliver downfield strikes and run the team's offense at all times. 

The point here is to say Cousins is not always the most consistent QB, and that's backed up by Redskins safety Landon Collins.

"Like I was with the Giants, you never know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're getting. Right now they're getting Pro Bowl Kirk Cousins over there," Collins said on Monday.

Collins faced Cousins plenty of times when the safety played for the Giants, and New York found plenty of success against the quarterback. In nine career games against the Giants, all as QB of the Redskins, Cousins threw 12 interceptions. 

So when Collins talks about slowing Cousins down, it's not from a hypothetical place. 

"Pressure. Pressure. When I was with the Giants, I know we put a lot of pressure on him, put a lot of guys in his face, a lot of blitzes, lot of different systematic fronts and stuff like that, disguises," the Redskins safety said. 

Cousins will come into Thursday's game against the Redskins on fire. He's thrown 10 TDs against just one INT in the Vikings last three games, all wins. In Detroit on Sunday, Cousins went for more than 300 yards passing with four touchdowns and wasn't sacked once. 

"Right now he's playing like a Pro Bowl Kirk Cousins," Collins said. "We would say at the Giants, 'You don't know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're going to get.' Right now they're getting Pro Bowl Kirk Cousins, and he's playing at a high level right now."

At 1-6 the Redskins defense doesn't scare anybody. The team has had some success upfront, however, causing pressures and getting to passers. Washington has 16 sacks on the season and the front five has gotten things going after a very slow start.  

Cousins isn't unique. Pressure causes turnovers for defenses. Players on both side of the football know that, and that's what Collins want to see in Minnesota against Cousins.

"That's the biggest game plan: try to force him into mistakes. Right now he's playing at a high level, so it's going to be hard. He's playing against a lot of good teams and he's been going against a good defense. That's probably made his skill level and his play much better."

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10.21.19 Rick Horrow interviews Abby Warner

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USA TODAY Sports

10.21.19 Rick Horrow interviews Abby Warner

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick interviews Indy Women in Tech Summit Co-Chair Abby Warner and shares the biggest sports business stories of the past week.



LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST EPISODE HERE

1. Top cyber protection software provider Acronis is leading the way in data protection for the modern enterprise. Sports partners include Boston Red Sox, NIO Formula E, Arsenal FC, ROKiT Williams Racing, SportPesa Formula 1, Manchester City FC, and more. Trusted by the world’s leading sports teams across the world, Acronis ensures they have the latest technology backing up, storing, and protecting their valuable data. “This event will bring to life the vision… that we’ve been building across all facets of our business during the last five years,” Serguei Beloussov Acronis Founder and CEO said in advance of last week's inaugural Acronis Global Cyber Summit. The summit welcomed over 600 IT professionals to hear from world-renowned experts and business leaders shaping the future of cyber protection, including Herjavec Group CEO Robert Herjavec, Security Analyst and Researcher at Tel Aviv University Keren Elazari, and American former FBI counter-terrorism and counterintelligence operative Eric O’Neill, along with Acronis founder and CEO, Serguei Beloussov.

2. ISC exec Grant Lynch drives into sunset. Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 1000 Bulbs 500 at Talladega Superspeedway marked the final race of Rick’s friend longtime track Chairman Grant Lynch’s tenure, and ISC put out a video thanking him for the 26-year run. Lynch joined the track in January 1993, and over the years he has become one of NASCAR’s most well-known and respected track executives, influential behind the scenes and constantly doing media appearances. Lynch is retiring after this year and is set to be replaced by Talladega’s vice president of marketing and sales Brian Crichton. Daytona International Speedway, the flagship track of Talladega’s parent company, ISC, released a montage Sunday morning with several senior executives sharing their memories and thanking Lynch, including NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton, ISC President John Saunders, and Chief Innovation and Development Office Craig Neeb. Alas, we won’t know the outcome of Sunday’s playoff race until Monday, as rain delayed the race’s conclusion. Talladega also unveiled their new $50 million infield renovation this past weekend – which will serve as a lasting legacy to Lynch.

3. Merging Vets and Players (MVP) charity teams up with the Atlanta Falcons to reduce military and veteran suicides. According to KOAM News, the MVP charity aims to bring together combat veterans and retired professional athletes to help them adjust to life outside their professions. The organization has set up chapters in four major U.S. cities, and the Atlanta branch is working closely with the Atlanta Falcons. MVP was founded by FOX’s NFL insider, Jay Glazer, and Nate Boyer, U.S. Army Green Beret Veteran and former NFL athlete who played for the Seattle Seahawks in 2015. After recently running some physical activities as a group, MVP coaches run “The Huddle” – a 1:15 long support group where participants are coached to be proud of their scars. Some of MVP’s ambassadors include former NFL players Michael Strahan, Olin Kreutz, and Chris Long, who have struggled with retirement. By crossing the interactions between NFL and combat veterans, both ex-players and veterans can help express their emotions and struggles in a positive way.