CHARLOTTE, NC (Katherine Peralta/The Charlotte Obs - After the Carolina Panthers' second-ever Super Bowl appearance and the team's near-perfect record last season, fans are no doubt itching to get back to Bank of America Stadium for the first home exhibition game of the season Friday.
When they arrive for the game against the New England Patriots, they'll notice a number of differences at the home stadium, from changes in security protocol to faster Internet to higher concessions costs. Here is a closer look at five changes:
Metal detectors at each entrance: The Panthers have installed about 95 walk-through body scanners at each entrance, doing away with the hand-held scanners and pat-downs. The NFL started requesting that each stadium have walk-through magnetometers about three years ago. Some cities are up to speed, and some still aren't. The team says the detectors could speed up security check-in.
Better Wi-Fi: A new Wi-Fi system was installed this offseason that effectively doubles the number of access points in the stadium to more than 1,200. That's on top of improvements to the stadium's "distributed antenna system" that will bring improved wireless capacity and faster data speeds during games. The Panthers say the combination will make Bank of America Stadium "one of the best-connected stadiums in the NFL."
Soda changes: As part of the renovations to the stadium's 500 level, the team removed all pourable drinks from the fixed concession stands because they slow down lines and take up a lot of space. Now fans will buy a cup at the concession stands and fill the drinks themselves at all-you-can-drink Pepsi stands. The down side? All-you-can-drink cups are $8.50. Other levels do not yet have access to the all-you-can-drink option, so they are $6.50 for a 32-ounce cup, said Scott Paul, executive director of stadium operations.
Beer changes: Unlike in the past, NoDa Brewing won't have any of its beer available on draft at the stadium this season.