Business leaders support Panthers’ request

jmorrill@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 25, 2013 

Charlotte business leaders Monday continued to rally around the Carolina Panthers and the team’s request for local and state aid to upgrade Bank of America Stadium.

Meanwhile a team official said he’s confident a deal will get done, though one lawmaker said the city’s proposal won’t pass, at least in its current form.

The Panthers are seeking $144 million from the city of Charlotte and $62 million from the state for an upgrade that could cost around $250 million. City officials are asking lawmakers to approve a 1 percentage point in Charlotte’s prepared food tax in exchange for the team agreeing to stay in Charlotte for 15 years.

“Raising taxes in some (form) is going to be required for the stadium to be upgraded,” Chamber Chairman Brett Carter, a Duke Energy executive, told reporters.

Carter’s remarks came after Panthers President Danny Morrison gave a closed-door briefing to the chamber’s board of directors.

Legislative leaders have said it could be hard to find $62 million in a tight state budget. And some lawmakers are reluctant to approve even a local tax increase. Republican Rep. Bill Brawley of Matthews calls that “a heavy lift.”

“The proposal that the city of Charlotte has put on the table will not pass the North Carolina House,” he said last week. “That does not mean that the Panthers will not receive support, but it does mean the Charlotte plan they brought to Raleigh is not realistic politically. I believe the speaker and the president pro tem will be able to craft a solution that will meet the needs of the Panthers within the political reality of Raleigh.”

House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius and Senate President Phil Berger of Eden issued a statement Thursday saying they “remain steadfast and committed to keeping the Panthers in North Carolina.”

That same day, the board of Charlotte Center City Partners formally endorsed the request for legislative support toward stadium improvements.

On Monday, Panthers President Danny Morrison told reporters he’s confident a deal can be reached. He said timing is an issue, since the team would have to order new escalators and other upgrades by this fall in order to undertake construction after the 2013 season.

“The sooner it comes to a resolution, the better for everybody,” Morrison said.

Morrill: 704-358-5059

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