Carolina Panthers owner takes questions on practice facility, Cam’s hat and the Tepper Quad
Bank of America Stadium saw its value surge from $135 million to $572 million following Mecklenburg County’s first revaluation since 2011.
It represents a 324 percent rise for the team, compared to the median increase for commercial properties of 77 percent.
That may ultimately lead to a much higher tax bill for the Panthers, although tax rates are set by county commissioners, who could lower rates to offset some of the increased property values.
According to county tax records, the Panthers paid $1.84 million in taxes on the facility last year.
Other commercial properties in the region saw their values rise following the county’s revaluation, but few apparently experienced the sticker shock that Bank of America Stadium did.
The county has said that many property/building owners who see a large increase in their valuation may seek an appeal to lower their potential tax bill. As they have done in past appeals, the Panthers could argue that theirs is an aging stadium that’s depreciated in value over time.
The revaluation comes at a time when David Tepper, the hedge fund manager who bought the team last summer for an NFL-record $2.275 billion, is weighing the future of Bank of America Stadium.
The building is one of the oldest in the league, so the team may consider more renovations or a new facility before long — although Tepper has said he wants to keep the stadium uptown, even if he builds a practice campus in South Carolina.
Marc Ganis, a Chicago-based sports business consultant who advises NFL team owners on business matters, noted that the Panthers are one of few NFL teams that pay any property taxes. Ganis anticipates the team will appeal its new valuation, which he said “seems excessive as an increase on a percentage basis.”
“If someone is looking at this as an eye to the future … (the Panthers) might have to pay an extra $6 to $8 million a year in property taxes. It becomes part of the equation that is not a positive one,” Ganis said.
Uncertainty over the valuation and potentially larger tax bill, Ganis said, could make staying in Mecklenburg County “less attractive” for the Panthers. “Now Mecklenburg County can step up and participate in the future of the team, which most (NFL) communities have done,” Ganis added.
A team spokesman declined to comment on the new revaluation.
What it would cost to build today
Other commercial properties throughout the region saw their values rise, but not by nearly as much as Bank of America Stadium. SouthPark mall’s value rose 27 percent, for instance, and Park Road Shopping Center’s increased by 50 percent. Northlake Mall saw its value rise by 63 percent.
Tax Assessor Ken Joyner said that the county used a number of criteria to determine the new valuation of the stadium, including its age, seating capacity and recent renovation.
In 2013, the city of Charlotte agreed to provide the Panthers with $87.5 million in public funds to help renovate the stadium and to subsidize some operating costs. Some building improvements, which took place over the course of five years, included new escalators, video boards and better Wi-Fi and cell service.
“Using all of those indicators, we assess what that stadium would cost to build today,” Joyner said.
The Knights’ stadium
The assessment process is similar for the Charlotte Knights, which also saw its building value soar.
BB&T Ballpark’s value rose from $32 million in 2011 to $73.4 million — a rise of nearly 129 percent. According to tax records, the team paid over $435,000 in taxes on the building in 2018.
It’s unclear whether the team will appeal its valuation.
“We are reviewing the revaluation of our ballpark and have no official comments at this point,” the team’s chief operating officer, Dan Rajkowski, said in an email.
Both the Knights and the Panthers lease the land their buildings sit on, and a bill passed by the N.C. legislature last year exempts the teams from paying taxes on public land leased at below-market value.
The measure will save the Knights, who rent their land from the county, over $170,000 per year, according to property records. The Panthers lease 34 acres from the city for $1 a year, so the new bill saves the team more than more than $350,000 a year on property taxes.
Joyner, the tax assessor, said that the county did not take into account any tax break that the Panthers got from the state law when assessing its new value of the stadium.
“We would never consider that they got a break based on that statutory change. It’s just a situation where the law changed,” Joyner said. He added that he has not been contacted yet by anyone with the Panthers about the revaluation.
The Panthers have sparred with the county in the past about the value of their building, which opened in 1996 as Ericsson Stadium. Originally, team founder Jerry Richardson built the Panthers’ home field with financing from permanent seat licenses deposits and a bank loan.
In the county’s 2003 revaluation, the Panthers saw the value of their stadium rise, so they appealed the decision — albeit unsuccessfully at first. The county’s Board of Equalization and Review raised the value by more than $11 million, to $161.5 million, according to a July 2004 Observer story.
The board made the decision in late December 2003, after a day-long hearing that included arguments over the proper size of football stadiums and the usable life of sports facilities.
The Panthers argued that the stadium building itself had a useful life of just 24 years. The county, however, rejected that argument.
So the team appealed to the state.
Rather than continue to fight, the county settled with the Panthers in March 2004. The final value of $150.4 million matched the county’s appraisal. That’s still $16 million higher than before the revaluation, and it it’s almost $50 million above the amount the team requested in its appeal.