CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - Fans are getting a new look at what $50 million in pro soccer-related renovations at Bank of America Stadium look like, after weeks of construction.
Tepper Sports & Entertainment released the new renderings and a video of the stadium renovations Thursday morning. The changes will outfit the roughly 75,000-seat football stadium that hosts the NFL’s Carolina Panthers with soccer-friendly enhancements in preparation for Charlotte’s Major League Soccer team, Charlotte FC, to take the pitch in 2022.
The rollout of the renovations comes as the club is aiming to bolster ticket sales ahead of its inaugural season. It also could help alleviate some recent criticism from fans who expressed concern about the cost of the team’s season ticket prices for seating at a 25-year-old stadium.
Panthers and Charlotte FC team owner David Tepper landed an expansion team in Charlotte in December 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic delayed the team’s inaugural season by a year.
Tepper Sports team president Tom Glick said last winter that despite the pandemic, soccer-specific renovations remained on schedule, with that process beginning in March. Those renovations are expected to be completed by the end of next February.
The renovation project includes adding a center tunnel, a new home locker room, multiple broadcast camera locations for soccer TV angles, as well as two new food and beverage bar areas in the concourse behind the supporters section.
CHANGES AT THE GATE
The renovations also include significant changes to the Bank of America Stadium East Gate, including the addition of a 210-foot-long LED screen at the entrance for digital motion graphics and other team signage or video clips.
The gate’s large black panther statues will be moved — but will still be featured prominently at that entrance, Panthers Chief Operating Officer Mark Hart said. The statues will head to the sides of the Lowe’s East Gate.
The renderings also show blue-colored smoke at the entryway near the East Gate, which Hart said the club hopes to incorporate on matchday.
“It’s going to be a vibrant, energetic, high-energy light and sound iconic gate,” Hart told the Observer.
Also at the East Gate will be the Charlotte FC circular crest atop the stadium next to the Panthers logo as part of a multi-million dollar co-branding of the building to ensure that “Charlotte FC and soccer gets the prominence that it deserves,” Hart said.
IN ‘THE VAULT’
Within the stadium, the new renderings also show “The Vault,” a former storage space that will be converted into a 3000-square foot sleek and “secretive” lounge area for premium season ticket holders next to the center tunnel.
Those club members will also get an upfront view of players entering the field through the new center tunnel as they exit the locker room.
Hart called the home locker room, which the club is also essentially re-outfitting from scratch as a former storage space in the stadium, one of the “most well-appointed” designs. It will have LED lights above each locker, and a large Charlotte FC crown on the ceiling.
There will be no upgrades for visiting teams, which are expected to use an auxiliary locker room already in the stadium.
“It’s going to make it a great environment,” Hart said. “But it’s also going to put us in a position that we can properly operate for another 20-30 events, these kinds of athletic events, a year.”
‘NOT A HUGE DISRUPTION’
In addition to NFL games and planned MLS matches, Bank of America Stadium hosts concerts and other college and international sporting events.
Renovations began last January for suite enhancements aimed at benefiting ticket holders for different events at the stadium, but Tepper Sports has recently ramped up its soccer-specific stadium upgrades.
Of the $50 million for renovations, Tepper Sports covered slightly more than half, Hart said, with the rest coming from Charlotte City Council-approved funding.
Hart said that the renovations will not impact seating for Panthers ticket holders during the upcoming NFL season, although the renovations will be ongoing through the winter. He added that the Panthers have already contacted account holders impacted by the tunnel area renovations.
“Any renovation impacts or construction impacts will be really minimized or limited to the East Gate (and) that concourse area,” Hart said. " … It may be an inconvenience, but not a huge disruption.”
Last July, Charlotte’s expansion club revealed its name: Charlotte Football Club, or Charlotte FC. The team also revealed a team crest and its colors: blue, black, silver and white.
SEE THEM ON TV
Since then, Charlotte FC has signed four players, Sergio Ruiz, Riley McGree, Jan Sobociński and Brandt Bronico.
On Wednesday, Charlotte FC announced a new deal with three local TV stations.