Debate continues over funding for Panthers stadium renovations

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – A current, and controversial, $1.3 billion proposal could transform Bank of America Stadium as fans know it.

The plan comes with massive upgrades that many in the community hope will bring in big-name events and artists.

On Monday, the Charlotte City Council opened up a public comment session regarding the proposal, but not everyone was in favor of spending hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers money to fund the plan.

“I think this is wrong,” resident Sylvia Cobb said. “I’m here to represent the middle class.”

Cobb was not fond of the idea of $650 million from the tourism and hospitality tax coffers go toward the nearly 30-year-old stadium owned by Tepper Sports and Entertainment.

Some people argue Tepper, who has a net worth of $20.6 billion, according to Forbes, has the money and should foot the bill himself.

“Why are you giving someone with that kind of money $650 million? I think it’s criminal,” she said.

Others were looking for more accountability.

“Your handling of this has made it clear that transparency is anything but a priority,” resident Grace Fendrick said to the council.

Some who addressed councilmembers Monday night said if there is going to be that level of financial investment, the city should look at taking partial ownership of the stadium.

While the council endured a barrage of criticism from some, many business owners and partners were complimentary and excited for what the potential investment could bring and the economic impact that could follow.

“Making upgrades to the stadium assure it will continue to be a critical economic asset for the City of Charlotte,” one person said.

The more than $1.3 billion project will add new seating, scoreboards and a reimagined exterior. It is also a critical component in many peoples’ eyes in tying the team to the Queen City for decades to come.

“Which…in our view, would be a significant investment in one of our city’s most powerful and economic assets,” one person said of keeping the Panthers in Charlotte.

The potential for economic growth has local business owners excited about the possible impact, describing already “amazing growth” that has come with some big events at the stadium over the past couple years.

Monday’s public comment session comes exactly a week before city council is expected to vote on the proposal.

Related: CLT leaders approve Panthers’ practice facility upgrades, hold hearing on stadium project