Carolina Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson personally asked state lawmakers to help finance a stadium upgrade Wednesday morning, offering a plan that calls for $62.5 million in state aid and state approval for $144 million in higher local taxes.
Some lawmakers responded with questions, particularly about the tax hike.
Richardson and team President Danny Morrison appeared at the Mecklenburg delegation meeting with Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble, who outlined the proposal.
Richardson described his long effort to win the franchise, which was awarded in 1993. He insisted he has no plans to move it.
“I would never move the team, I want to emphasize that,” Richardson told Mecklenburg County legislators. “I never made a threat to move the team. To be honest with you, it was offensive to me to suggest I would.”
The agreement would tie the team to the city for 15 years.
Kimble asked legislators for help in winning support for the city to raise its prepared food and beverage tax by 1 percent. The increase would raise $125 million for the Panthers and some for amateur sports.
Rep. Charles Jeter, a Cornelius Republican, suggested the amateur sports allocation was “nebulous.”
Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican, said, “The 1 percent (tax) seems to be more than we need.”
And Matthews Republican Bill Brawley asked why, if the debt would be retired in 15 years, why the tax hike would not sunset for 30.
“This is a long-term solution, not just a short-term solution,” replied Kimble, who said the continuation would give the city flexibility after the 15-year term of the agreement.
Richardson showed up at the 7:30 a.m. meeting after being in Philadelphia the night before to attend a memorial service. He said the proposal is “time sensitive.”
“If it wasn’t so time sensitive,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here at the crack of dawn this morning.”
--Jim Morrill, Observer staff writer