(The Center Square) – The ask of David Tepper, estimated the world’s 82nd richest man with net worth above $20 billion, to get about $600 million from taxpayers for his NFL stadium in North Carolina is nearing the finish line.
Members of the state House of Representatives voted 98-6 on Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 154, an omnibus bill of occupancy tax changes that includes an extension of Mecklenburg County’s prepared meals and occupancy tax to 2060.
The bill must receive a concurrence vote in the Senate, where it passed in June, before heading to Gov. Roy Cooper.
Forbes, as of Wednesday, estimated the owner of the Carolina Panthers at $20.6 billion. Bank of America Stadium was part of the 2018 transaction.
Wednesday’s vote follows discussions at the Charlotte City Council in January and February regarding a planned renovation of the stadium and a new practice facility that’s expected to cost about $1.2 billion.
The “potential framework” for the renovation involves about $600 million in taxpayer contributions from “tourism taxes” that include the prepared food and beverage tax and others.
Tepper, president and founder of Appaloosa Management where he’s become arguably the greatest hedge fund manager of his generation, purchased the Panthers for $2.2 billion in 2018. He later paid about $325 million to bring the Charlotte FC professional soccer team to Charlotte, which followed $50 million in privately funded renovations to the stadium in 2021.
A 10-year contract to keep the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte expired on July 1, allowing Tepper to relocate the team elsewhere without financial penalties.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles has declined to discuss the potential taxpayer funding for the Bank of America Stadium renovations, but has stressed the Panthers’ and Charlotte FC’s central role in the city’s hospitality and tourism industry.
Messages for comment left by The Center Square for Lyles and Tepper Sports and Entertainment went unanswered on Wednesday.
Craig Depken, a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who has studied the economic impacts of sporting activities in the city, previously told The Center Square the Panthers’ economic impacts are “fairly minor, but they’re there.”
Depken said the biggest impact comes from roughly 1,000 hotel rooms filled the night before and after Panthers’ games. The 1% prepared meals tax and 2% hotel room tax generated a total of about $58 million in 2022.
The NFL plays a 17-game regular season with three preseason games; Carolina hasn’t been the playoffs since Tepper took over, much less had a winning season. Made for TV college football games and music concerts have complimented the schedule of its tenants. Football capacity is 74,867; the stadium opened in August 1996.
“It would take a long time to make up $600 million of tax,” Depken said.
While city officials term the prepared meals and occupancy tax as “tourist taxes,” economists consider them similar to other taxes because the money would otherwise go to the city’s general fund.
“Those revenue sources are unconnected to the stadium and have no business being taxed to pay for a private venture that generates revenue for one of the wealthiest individuals in town,” J.C. Bradbury, professor at Kennesaw State University who specializes in sports economics, told The Center Square this spring.
Charlotte’s Convention Center Fund, which collects the taxes on prepared food and hotel sales taxes, is also the source of a $65 million pledge approved by city officials in June to contribute toward a $133 million taxpayer funded incentive package to bring the Western & Southern Open professional tennis tournament to Charlotte.
The $65 million, along with $30 million pledged by Mecklenburg County in July, brings the total secured for the deal to $95 million, with officials looking to lawmakers in Raleigh to kick in the remaining $38 million in the biennial budget. Project Breakpoint is in the budget, but at $20 million.
Beemok Capital, the family office of Charleston, South Carolina billionaire Ben Navarro, is expected to decide on the move, or to keep the tournament at its Ohio home since 1899, this fall. The approved funding for the move to Charlotte would go toward the construction of a new $400 million tennis facility if Beemok chooses to relocate the tournament.