CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers are unveiling new upgrades that have been made to the Bank of America stadium, as part of the team's deal with the city, ahead of the 2016 season.
Scott Paul the executive director of stadium operations said the latest upgrades cost $26 million with $18 million funded by the city. The media was given a tour Tuesday morning, as a letter was sent from the team to PSL owners.
According to the team, improvements include stadium security, the wi-fi system, ticket pricing and the 500-Level concourse. This is the third phase of renovations and is expected to be completed before the start of the season.
Under a pact reached in 2013, the city of Charlotte agreed to contribute $75 million to the renovation project over five years, while the Panthers committed to pay $37.5 million. As part of the deal, the team agreed to be "tethered" to the city for at least six years, with further penalties for leaving in years seven through ten.
In January, The Charlotte Observer reported the city had already chipped in $28 million toward the renovations and will dole out $23.5 million in both 2016 and 2018 for additional work.
The Panthers have already exceeded their commitment, according to The Observer, having spent $72 million, with plans to shell out another $8 million this year.
Fans can expect to see different security protocols when they visit the stadium this season, the letter to PSL owners stated.
"When you arrive at the stadium this year, you will encounter a new security protocol that is more efficient, less intrusive, and better at distinguishing items that are prohibited from the stadium," team President Daniel B. Morrison, Jr. wrote.
"While larger objects including cell phones, cameras, and binoculars remain subject to inspection, advanced walk-through screening devices mean you will no longer have to present keys and pocket change for inspection," he continued. "As we have done in the past several seasons, we will continue to enforce the NFL policy of allowing only clear plastic bags no larger than 12" x 6" x 12" into the stadium."
The old pat down or wand waving system is being replaced by magnetometers.
"Everybody at all three of our main gates will walk through it, it's a huge departure for us and a huge expenditure as well," said Lance Emory, the executive director of risk management at the stadium.
A demonstration of the system showed that fans won't have to take off jewelry or hand in keys. But cell phones will be placed in a plastic container.
"We hope it'll be faster once people get accustomed to it because it's going to be very discriminatory as it'll allow you to bring in," said Emory.
Emory said there are also more surveillance cameras to allow them to see people in and around the stadium. There will also be K-9 teams that can detect explosives.
"I think it gives people great comfort when they see some dogs work the area," Emory said.
There are also new security posts for non-game days. The stadium operations staff says they still want to be welcoming but safe.
"The best we can do is harden the target that's number one and try to identify those people that might want to hurt us," Emory said.
The team says it will keep the hotline for reporting any fans who get unruly while visiting the stadium.
"As always, our goal is to ensure all fans feel comfortable and enjoy their stadium experience," Morrison said in the letter. "Unruly or unlawful behavior will not be tolerated. The dedicated fan-help text line remains in place in the event you experience fan behavior issues. Please text 704-Get-Help (704-438-4357), and a member of our staff will respond to address the issue."
In the letter, Morrison also says the stadium has doubled the number of wi-fi access points from 600 to more than 1,200. The letter claims the wi-fi will work with last year's cellular system upgrade to make Bank of America Stadium "one of the best-connected stadiums in the NFL."
James Hammond the information technology director showed some of the access points that are under stadium seats.
"You can think about drawing a circle around each one of these and you're going to have coverage everywhere in the bowl," said Hammond.
Fans can also expect to see faster concession service in the upper deck of the stadium.
The letter says there have been an "additional 134 points of sale" added to the 500-level concourse which will "speed up service at concession stands."
On the 500 level the draft soda and beer machines were removed from the food stands. All-you-can-drink soda machines and the draft beer is now sold separately on the concourse.
"That's going to get people through lines quicker and back out to support the team in the seating bowl," Paul said.
The team says a new pricing structure has been adopted to "better reflect the market value of preseason games compared to regular season games," as a result of its annual fan survey.
"When you receive your season tickets you will notice two-tiered pricing that reflects lower prices on preseason tickets and higher prices for regular season games," the letter said.