Is this what Charlotte’s future stadium could look like? Is it worth it for taxpayers?

Updated: Dec. 19, 2019 at 7:22 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Renovations to Bank of America Stadium are only a stop gap for Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper. Tepper has been vocal about the need for a new stadium, and at Tuesday’s announcement of a new Major League Soccer team in Charlotte, he specified what kind of stadium he’s looking for.

“You know Tottenham would be an example, of course by the time you get there hopefully an improved Tottenham Stadium,” Tepper said.

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London is where the Panthers played on their trip to the UK. It’s considered the gold standard of new stadiums and is equipped with numerous state-of-the-art features.

- Retractable natural turf pitch to reveal artificial field surface underneath.

- 65-meter bar area, largest in Europe.

- Marketplace area to be used outside of game days.

- Restaurants, lounges and bar establishments.

“New stadiums today will cost anywhere from $800 million to a couple billion dollars,” Smith College Professor of Economics said.

Zimbalist’s research casts doubt on whether public financing for new stadiums is a worthy investment for taxpayers.

“All of us who’ve done empirical work here find that a stadium or an arena by itself is not an engine of economic development,” Zimbalist said.

Zimbalist said a number of factors contribute to that. One such example is that economic activity surrounding a stadium or sports franchise is just taken from other areas of the city.

However, Zimbalist said that in certain situations stadium investment can spur economic growth.

“(If) In addition to a stadium or arena you’re also getting private investment in a mixed used development,” Zimbalist said.

That’s how city leaders like Mayor Vi Lyles are trying to pitch the stadium renovation project. In her letter to MLS Commissioner Don Garber Lyles also highlighted development of an entertainment district in Charlotte Center City and Gateway districts and a revitalized area around MLS team headquarters at the old Eastland Mall site.

But Zimbalist says that those projects aren’t necessarily any better for public funding investments and only complicate what is still a questionable use of money for taxpayers.

“So they meld together a package whereby it looks like there’s more private contribution and there’s less public contribution,” Zimbalist said.

“But when you start unpacking the details of it such as tax exemptions for twenty or thirty years or free use of land, below market rate use of land and so on then really the city is giving up quite a bit.”

Details of the projects have not been released by the city yet. Lyles and other elected leaders say they will go through a public process before spending taxpayer dollars.

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