Panthers sing familiar song

Feb. 14, 2013 @ 05:47 AM

It seems to be the same song, just the second verse.

Owners of major sports franchises come to local and state lawmakers with hat-in-hand to ask for money to make their home facility the best and the brightest.

On Wednesday, Carolina Panthers' owner Jerry Richardson appeared in Raleigh to ask state lawmakers to finance a stadium upgrade for Bank of America Stadium.

Richardson is asking for $62 million in state aid as well as General Assembly approval for $144 million in higher local taxes in Mecklenburg County.

This is a familiar song heard throughout the country as professional sports team owners attempt to leverage their team for public money.

In Kansas City, the owners of both the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals utilized the same ploy to coerce Missouri lawmakers to invest multi-millions of state dollars to upgrade the Truman Sports Complex.

While lawmakers did approve a percentage of what was asked, team ownership was forced to sell a bond referendum to local taxpayers — which inevitably passed.

In an earlier report from the Associated Press, there were rumors that Richardson would move the Panthers if the state did not acquiesce to his request for aid.

On Wednesday, Richardson denied that earlier report and called it "offensive" that anyone could suggest he would use team relocation as a threat for state funding.

But, let's be honest, professional teams have used the same gambit time and time again. The backdoor threat of losing a professional sports franchise because of what is perceived as a lack of community support has both been verified and come to fruition.

Just ask sports fans in Seattle and Sacramento. Both towns have either lost or had threats of losing their professional franchises over the same ordeal.

Regardless of whether or not Richardson has tried to levy the threat, the deal is that he is asking for public funding to support what is essentially a private business.

That is a very difficult pill for us to swallow.

We have small businesses across the state who have been struggling for years to stay profitable or even flat-line at breaking even.

There is no question that, regardless of sagging attendance, the Carolina Panthers are not a fledgling sports organization. There is money that has been, and will continue to be made in Charlotte for Richardson and the Panthers.

We see very little, if anything, wrong with Bank of America Stadium. By longevity standards, despite being over a decade old, it is still one of the newest professional sports venues in the nation.

If it weren't for rain, Bank of America stadium was good enough to house the national stage for the final day of the Democratic National Convention without any improvements. It is hard to believe that the structure is not good enough for the Carolina Panthers for eight days of the year.

The prospect of the state — which is admittedly been struggling for jobs and economic development — pouring millions of its dollars into this project is nothing less than a bad use of funds.

We would certainly support some kind of a referendum, asking Mecklenburg County voters to approve a local bond issue for the funds. Essentially, let those that would be taxed the right to decide if they are in favor of the tax.

That is the proper and prudent thing for state lawmakers to do.

By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board


The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett, Dr. Shermaine Surratt and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark