Some state senators not convinced city should help Panthers reno - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Some state senators not convinced city should help Panthers renovate stadium

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Charlotte city officials may have run into a road block in the State Senate as they try to convince lawmakers to allow them to use public money to help pay for Bank of America renovations.

Legislators in the House passed House Bill 193 which would give city officials flexibility to use Convention Center funds to help pay for Bank of America Stadium renovations in exchange for the team agreeing to stay in the city long term.

But some senators are apparently balking at using Convention Center money to help the Carolina Panthers.

"They don't even want to use the money" says Council Member James Mitchell. "Some are saying no... when we gave that authority it's strictly for convention center. We want it to stay with the Convention Center."

Charlotte city officials and executives with the Carolina Panthers met on Monday to figure out how to reach out and lobby senators.

Mitchell says "we need to reassure them that it's not about giving funds. It's about keeping an asset here in Charlotte that's not only valuable to us - but to the state. It's about giving us the ability to keep the Panthers here who want to be here. And we want to make sure they hear it from us - elected officials."

The wavering in the Senate caught city officials off-guard.

"It was kind of unexpected. Sometimes tough decisions cause you growing pains. So we just see this as growing pains. We're not discouraged at all" says Mitchell.

Council member Mitchell says the meeting was originally scheduled to clarify how the city can help pay for improvements.

Mitchell says "we have an initial meeting with the Panthers as well as the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority to start talking about the convention center fund and the money there, and how we can leverage it for everyone so it will be a win win for everyone."

In February, Mayor Anthony Foxx publicly announced a proposal that had the city, the state and the Carolina Panthers all pitching in to help pay for $300M in stadium improvements.

But Governor Pat McCrory said he wasn't giving public money for stadium upgrades. And lawmakers in Raleigh refused to give Charlotte permission to increase the prepared foods tax that would help the city pay it's share of the deal.

So city officials needed a Plan B.

Some legislators are sponsoring a bill that will give city officials flexibility in using the current prepared food tax to help pay for stadium improvements. Lawmakers in the House passed the bill. It's now in the Senate.

City officials are now trying to figure out how much of the current prepared foods tax - which is used for the Convention Center - could be available to give to the Carolina Panthers.

CRVA officials have said that money is needed to pay for improvements to the Convention Center. They have to figure out what upgrades the Convention Center needs, and how much it will likely cost.

"That's part of the meeting on Monday - to start having that discussion" Council member Mitchell says. "And my goal would be to bring it to the economic development committee so they can start hearing about future plans."

But those who attended the meeting had to regroup.

Council Member Mitchell had hoped that when the three sides met on Monday, it was to see what can be done to get a "win for Panthers upgrade. Win for Convention Center - some of the upgrades that need to take place there. And making sure it's a deal the city council can support as well."

Instead, Mitchell says it was a "team huddle in preparation of the bill going to the Finance Committee on senate side and the floor on Thursday. We want to make sure that we need to reach out and make sure the delegation, the NC Senate know how important this is to the city of Charlotte."

Some city council members say using public money for stadium renovations will keep the team in Charlotte for years to come.  The city council's wish list almost turned into a nightmare when the Governor and the state legislature refused to get on board.

Council member Mitchell says during the legislative process he has continued to talk to Panthers executives "to ensure them the city is very upbeat and still wants to keep them here."

Mitchell says the stadium bill is scheduled to go before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, and then onto the Senate floor Thursday morning. City officials say they plan to attend.

Mitchell says "once we get final approval from the Senate, then the city council will start having its discussion about doing a deal that will keep them {Panthers} here for a long period of time because we appreciate the value they bring to the city."

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