Panthers future off the table as Eastland negotiations move forward

Panthers future off the table as Eastland negotiations move forward
A conceptual design of what the Eastland development could look like. (Source: WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The future of the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte has been taken off the table in negotiations over the development of the Eastland Mall site.

During an update at the Charlotte city council meeting Monday, Panthers Chief Operating Officer Mark Hart told councilmembers the question over the Panthers future is no longer tied to Eastland, although he pledged that Tepper Sports is committed to Charlotte.

While the Panthers negotiations are no longer part of Eastland, Charlotte Economic Development Director Tracy Dodson announced substantial progress over the Eastland site. That includes no longer having the Charlotte FC headquarters at Eastland in an effort to provide more public space at the property.

DOCUMENT: Read the full Eastland Development update.

Instead of the team headquarters, Dodson said that Tepper Sports would locate the youth academy at the property as well as practice fields that could host the MLS team and international squads coming to play in Charlotte.

A conceptual design of what the Eastland development could look like.
A conceptual design of what the Eastland development could look like. (Source: WBTV)

In November, city council committed $110 million in hospitality funds that would go to Tepper Sports for the development at Eastland and Uptown. Now that figure is just $35 million with $10 million going toward Eastland and $25 million for the proposed entertainment district in Uptown. None of that money is now projected to go toward Bank of America Stadium renovations.

The agreement between the city and Tepper Sports includes non-relocation clauses for the MLS team but does not mention the Panthers.

“I think the unanswered question here is football,” Councilman Ed Driggs said.

“So, I’m wondering if we have any information about Tepper’s intentions as far as football is concerned.”

“It’s a good question, it’s probably not one that’s related to this. This is strictly about our investment in Charlotte,” Hart said.

Driggs told WBTV he was shocked that the Panthers are no longer a part of these negotiations and he wondered whether the city would have committed $35 million for soccer alone.

" I was a little surprised at just how quickly he dismissed it," Driggs told WBTV.

Regarding Bank of America Stadium Hart said that building needed to be transformed for soccer. Some of those renovations have already started.

Hart also said that COVID has had a toll on professional sports and that a lot of the changes in the agreements regarding tethers with the Panthers was “not appropriate at this time.”

Hart said the discussions on the Panthers and a long-term solution for Bank of America Stadium will eventually happen but wanted to see development of the Uptown entertainment district first.

Hart said those discussions about the Panthers could happen in 2022.

In January city staff provided a report to council showing that the city could easily afford $110 million in hospitality funds for the Eastland/Uptown/Bank of America Stadium project. It’s unclear what the impact of a much more substantial ask in 2022 would mean for the hospitality fund.

Instead of focusing on future negotiations the city highlighted the progress made on the Eastland development.

Dodson says that the city would propose a ground lease for the section of Eastland development dedicated to Tepper Sports.

Other portions of the land developed by Crosland Southeast would be sold as they near the development stage.

The Crosland portion of the development would include residential, retail, restaurants and green space.

Dodson says the city is working with the county regarding funding for the greenspace and parks.

She estimates a total public investment of somewhere between $50-$54 million total of which $37-$39 million would come from the city.

The total taxpayer investment for the Eastland project could total $54 million, far less than what was originally projected, but also doesn't include commitments for the Panthers.
The total taxpayer investment for the Eastland project could total $54 million, far less than what was originally projected, but also doesn't include commitments for the Panthers. (Source: WBTV)

During the November 9th meeting Charlotte city council will vote on whether to authorize the city manager to execute a master development agreement with Crosland Southeast and Tepper Sports.

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