(The Center Square) – David Tepper, among the planet’s richest men with a net worth of more than $20 billion, is a step closer to securing taxpayer funds for renovations at his NFL stadium in Charlotte.
Lawmakers in the General Assembly on Wednesday approved a bill to allow multiple counties to levy or extend a variety of tourism taxes. Among them, an extension on Mecklenburg County’s 1% tax on prepared food and drinks that was to expire in 2034.
Senate Bill 154 extends the revenue stream used for sports facilities and Charlotte’s convention center until 2060. Those funds that are expected to contribute toward a $1.2 billion renovation of the Carolina Panthers’ 27-year-old Bank of America Stadium.
Tepper, estimated worth at $20.6 billion on Friday by Forbes, bought the Panthers – ownership of the stadium was part of the deal – for more than $2.3 billion in 2018. The 66-year-old made his hedge fund mark – arguably greatest manager of the generation – when he founded Appaloosa Management in 1993 after being passed over for partner at Goldman Sachs.
The Mecklenburg County tax generated $51.1 million last fiscal year, or about $14.4 million more than before the pandemic in 2019.
Mohammad Jenatian, president of the Greater Charlotte Hospitality & Tourism Alliance, wrote in an email to The Center Square that Charlotte’s status as a “major travel destination” is due to a willingness to invest hospitality taxes in “tourism generating venues such as the convention center, our NBA arena, Bank of America Stadium, NASCAR Hall of Fame, our arts and cultural venues, our numerous sports venues, etc.”
“These assets have been responsible for the remarkable growth of our region’s hospitality industry, which currently has an annual economic impact of $7.9 billion in Mecklenburg County,” he wrote. “For our industry to grow more, we must continue investing in maintaining, enhancing, building and retaining tourism revenue generating assets and this extension of the sunset on an existing tax will provide our industry and Charlotte with financing tools to do what is necessary to grow our prosperous industry and our overall economy.”
Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tom Murray said the extension “is crucial for advancing our tourism efforts and will provide us with the means to bond future revenues, enabling the funding of important initiatives.
“The stability and predictability of hospitality taxes make them a dependable source for financing projects,” Murray said in an emailed statement to The Center Square.
The vote Wednesday follows private discussions earlier this year between Tepper Sports and Entertainment and city officials on a $1.2 billion renovation project for the stadium that would leverage $600 million in public money. Both Tepper Sports and the city have repeatedly declined to discuss any details publicly.
Mecklenburg Republican Rep. John Bradford has championed the tax extension as an important component of the stadium upgrades. He initially included an extension of the 1% tax alongside an extension of a 2% hotel occupancy tax in House Bill 408, which died in the House rules committee this spring.
The hotel tax ultimately was not included in SB154, though Bradford has said an extension could come in future legislation. The hotel tax is slated to expire in 2038.
Aside from the stadium renovations, Charlotte city leaders this year also approved spending $65 million in revenues from the prepared food tax in a bid to bring the Western and Southern Open professional tennis tournament to Charlotte.
Despite the pledged spending, and nearly $50 million set aside by Mecklenburg County and the General Assembly, owners of the tournament opted instead to remain in Ohio, where the tournament has been played since 1899.