Panthers owner: ‘No way I’d build domed stadium post-COVID’

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper said he’s no longer considering building a domed stadium in uptown Charlotte in the post-COVID-19 era.

In 2019, Tepper said he hoped to build a retractable roof stadium in Charlotte within the next 10 years, in part to draw other big sporting events to the city like the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four. But Tepper has backed off that idea after the coronavirus pandemic turned the sports world upside down, prompting teams to limit seating for fans last year.

“There is no way in hell I would build a domed stadium in Charlotte, especially after COVID,” Tepper said Tuesday. “The weather is too beautiful and, if anything, it (COVID-19) shows you it is an advantage to have that kind of (open-air) building.”

Tepper made the remarks following an event in Rock Hill where he and his wife, Nicole, donated $500,000 to Miracle Park, a place where those with special needs can participate in sports. Panthers Charities donated an additional $200,000 to the park, which is set to open in August.

Tepper offered no update on a timetable for when he hopes to build a new stadium in Charlotte, indicating that will largely depend on outside funding from the city and fans.

“At some point that building will fall down,” Tepper said of the team’s current uptown stadium, which opened in 1996. “But like I said before, I’m not building a stadium alone. The community is going to have to want it. If I’m (paying) a third, the community is (paying) a third and eventually in the future, and it could be a long way out, the PSL (permanent seat license) owners are a third, that’s a partnership. And if people don’t want it, they don’t want it. I’m not going to force it on anybody.”

Tepper added that the Panthers are content to stay at Bank of America Stadium for now, saying “in the meantime we are trying to make the building we have the best possible building we can have.”

The Panthers are in the midst of several renovations to the stadium, including installing a new turf field in part because the stadium will host a Major League Soccer team, which begins play in 2022.

Carolina’s current stadium was built by former Panthers owner and founder Jerry Richardson, with funding coming in part from PSL owners.

As for potential long-term plans to build a replacement, Tepper said he’s considering two sites — one on the land known as the Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, which is located near the current stadium. The other option is tearing down that stadium and building a new one on the same site.

“If you had to do something you might go away (to another stadium) and play games for a couple of years and build a (new) stadium where it is right now,” Tepper said. “Where we are is a great place in Charlotte and we will see what happens.”

‘Something we know that will come at some point down the line’

Charlotte City councilmembers told Channel 9′s Joe Bruno that Tepper’s wish for tax dollars for a new stadium is not a surprise.

“Charlotte is a community that invests in public-private partnerships -- that’s how we built the city,” Councilman Malcolm Graham said.

Graham said he doesn’t like that Charlotte lost the practice facility and headquarters to Rock Hill. He wants to cement the team in Charlotte.

Councilman Larken Egleston agrees with Tepper that a dome would be a mistake. He also thinks the Charlotte Pipe land or current location would be the best fits for a new stadium.

He points out the city’s hospitality fund is for projects like this, so a conversation between Tepper and the city should be expected. The hospitality fund has to be used for tourism purposes not things like affordable housing or sidewalks. When city council agreed to provide funds for Eastland redevelopment and a potential entertainment in uptown on the practice fields, the dollars came from that pot.

“This is something we know that will come at some point down the line and we look forward to having a strong partnership with Charlotte FC and Carolina Panthers,” Egleston said.

Mayor Vi Lyles told Bruno that the immediate focus is developing a strategy for the entertainment district around Bank of America Stadium in 2022 and the city will follow up that work with strategies to discuss the stadium itself.

(Watch Below: Panthers donate more than 5,000 tons of soil from stadium field to Mecklenburg County parks)