fine reporting on the meeting from April Bethea and Jim Morrill, along with Joe Person's recap of what $250 million will buy the Panthers in stadium improvements):
1) The $143.75 million agreement between the team and city is more tentative than you might think. Morrison indicated that the state has a lot to say about the deal - not only by approving the 1 percent prepared food and beverage tax that Charlotte officials want, but by contributing $62.5 million toward the stadium renovations. It's likely state lawmakers will give Charlotte the authority to levy at least some of that tax increase, but House Speaker Thom Tillis has been very clear that he doesn't support direct money to the Panthers from the state.
What happens if lawmakers say no to a direct contribution? Morrison demurred when I asked him if the agreement with the city was solid even if the state didn't come through with its millions. The team would reevaluate where it stands, he said, and he was unclear whether the team would even begin stadium improvements before getting its yes or no from the state on the $62.5 million.
Panthers officials, who have met with several leaders in Raleigh, will be heading back to make their case more thoroughly. Morrison hopes to have an answer by the end of the session this spring. If that answer is no? Any hypothetical help from South Carolina would involve the Panthers' preseason training camp in Spartanburg, and the Panthers haven't had any talks with Mecklenburg County commissioners. That leaves the Panthers a couple of choices: give up on getting that last $62.5 million from public dollars, or go back to the one public body that already has said yes. Count on the latter.
2) Morrison said that Jerry Richardson got involved in the negotiations with the city only once. That happened after City Council members urged that the Panthers agree to be tethered to Charlotte for 15 years, not the 10 that city staff and team officials had tentatively agreed to. It was then, Morrison said, that Richardson stepped in and agreed to 15.
From a strict bottom line perspective, that probably wasn't the best choice for the value of his franchise, which is one of very few in the NFL that's not tethered legally to the city it plays in. The negotiating team, said Morrison, "would have advised him differently." But, as Morrison said, it's a reminder that Richardson sees the team as part of his legacy, as he does its relationship with Charlotte.
That doesn't mean that all will be smooth from this point forward (see tidbit No. 1). But for those who think the Panthers and city have a mutually beneficial partnership - and the editorial board counts itself among that group - it's a good foundation to continue building upon.
Peter St. Onge