The push to spend Charlotte tax money on renovations to Carolina Panthers stadium had a big win in Raleigh Wednesday.
Only one more vote stands between city officials moving forward with the $110 million plan.
"We're on the 20-yard line, first down and 10, trying to get in the end zone," city council member James Mitchell said of Wednesday's unanimous yes vote.
A bill with Mecklenburg lawmaker Rep. Ruth Samuelson as primary sponsor would allow city officials to use $24 million generated in prepared food and hotel taxes in a fund for the Convention Center.
The city could leverage that money to borrow up to $110 million.
The atmosphere in the Senate Finance Committee was high-spirited even before the bill received approval.
One senator jokingly asked if the money could be used to buy an airport, referring to the current battle over control of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
Others also joked around, even asking the same question -- whether any new taxes were involved -- several times to incite laughter.
"All we can say Senator Samuelson, we brought our best and our brightest here," Sen. Bob Rucho said.
Samuelson raised her arms and let out a jovial "Woo!" in response. She said late Wednesday that she wanted to clarify her cheer was not in response to the the joking environment around the bill or her bill's positive reception, but to Rucho accidentally calling her "senator."
"There are no new revenues, no new taxes," Samuelson said of the question about added taxes. "Nothing coming from the state, nothing new from the local."
Two days ago, Mitchell said he was not confident the bill would pass in the Senate.
He credited Wednesday's easy victory to several Senators making calls, including co-chair Rucho.
House representatives like Rep. Bill Brawley said they've also been making calls.
"Talking to anyone that will listen," Brawley said.
"Do you feel confident that it will pass in the Senate?" Eyewitness News asked.
"I do," he said.
The $110 million is still short of the $144 million city council originally pledged to the Panthers.
Mitchell said future tax money in the fund would likely have to go toward convention center upgrades, not the stadium.
While he says an agreement tethering the Panthers to Charlotte for 15 years in exchange for the full amount is off the table, he is still optimistic the $110 million would get some kind of long-term commitment from the team.
Mitchell said he plans to be in Raleigh for the full Senate vote Thursday morning.
He said a group of senators will let him know who else he needs to call and whether he needs to hold any meetings Thursday morning before the vote to help convince any lawmakers still on the fence.