Will The New Panthers Owner Ask For a New Stadium?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- The world just watched Super Bowl 52 from inside of Minnesota's state-of-the art U.S. Bank Stadium.

With uncertainty in the Panthers organization, many Carolina fans and taxpayers wonder how much longer the Panthers will play inside Bank of America Stadium. Will a new owner ask for a new stadium?

Former Panthers President Danny Morrison once said Bank of America Stadium, which opened in 1996, has "good bones."

Architect Ron Smith agrees. "I think this is a great, classic football stadium and I would hate to see it go away," he told WCNC.

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Smith shares the sentiments of many Panthers fans. But he also was one of the lead architects tasked with renovating Bank of America Stadium. That project is still receiving finishing touches. It cost several hundred million dollars, $87.5 million of that funded by the public.

The idea," Smith said, "was to enhance what we already had with as many modern fan amenities as we could to make it a viable stadium for years to come.”

But the life span for "new" stadiums is shrinking. Atlanta and Indianapolis recently demolished stadiums that were 25 and 24 years old, respectively. And even at 22, Bank of America Stadium is now the ninth oldest stadium in the NFL.

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WCNC interviewed Bryan Trubey of HKS Architects, which designed AT&T Stadium in Dallas, U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota, and whose latest project is the new NFL stadium in Los Angeles.

"The Panthers are a great team, we’d love to work there," Trubey said.

HKS said its mission with sports projects is to "design revenue-generating, world-class venues that leverage identity, promote community spirit, and serve as destination environments for our partners and their fans."

“We’ve created the most live environments," Trubey said. "The most activated environments."

Can’t argue with that. From monstrous video screens, to retractable roofs, to field level suites that put fans on the players' level.

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"What people want as a fan experience has changed radically," said Trubey. "How corporations want to be involved and visible because of broadcast television has changed radically.”

So has pricing. When it opened in 1996, Bank of America Stadium cost $248 million. Nearly every recent stadium has a price tag of at least a billion dollars.

Every situation is different but any new stadium in the Carolinas would likely require hundreds of millions of dollars in public money and possibly money from the purchase of new Permanent Seat Licenses.

But while Trubey would love to work with the Panthers, he doesn’t necessarily think they need a new stadium. He does, of course, think enhancements could be made. Like retro-fitting the place for a roof, which could help Charlotte land a Super Bowl or Final Four.

“Absolutely that’s possible," Trubey said. "It does seem appropriate to at least consider that if you add a roof to it maybe and renovations that could become the better long-term value.”

Of course there’s a price associated with that. Massive renovations to stadiums for the Dolphins and Bears cost close to half a billion dollars each. So once new ownership comes in the question will be: Are these good bones too old?

"That’s a good skeleton that building has and it’s been a great contributor to that community," Trubey said. "It could do well with some new life, some improvements.”

Asked about keeping the stadium in uptown or moving it to the South Carolina border, Trubey indicated it’s in a great location now, but HKS encourages teams to keep all opinions on the table.

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