Charlotte seeks big events for Bank of America Stadium – rent-free

sharrison@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 6, 2014 

The city of Charlotte and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority are working to find tenants for four rent-free dates at Bank of America Stadium but haven’t yet lined up any blockbuster events for the first half of 2014.

As part of last year’s $87.5 million agreement between the city and the Carolina Panthers for stadium renovations, the NFL team agreed to provide the city and CRVA with four rent-free dates in the first half of the year, for six years. Each rent-free date is worth $250,000.

In addition, the Belk Bowl doesn’t have to pay rent, and benefited from the deal for its Dec. 28 game.

The total value of the rent-free dates is $1.25 million a year for six years.

But to realize that value, the city and CRVA must find someone who needs a 73,000-seat stadium. Tenants could include concerts or international soccer matches.

Charlotte Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble, who was the city’s main negotiator with the Panthers last year, said the city hasn’t booked any events.

“But we are working diligently on one particular major event, as well as other possibilities at this time,” Kimble said in an e-mail to the Observer.

The idea behind the rent-free dates is that a large concert or sporting event will attract thousands of out-of-town visitors, who will stay in area hotels and eat in restaurants.

The Belk Bowl wasn’t in danger of leaving the city. But with the bowl no longer having to pay rent, Kimble has said it can use the saved money to increase its payout to participating teams. That can increase the bowl’s prestige.

Starting in December, the Belk Bowl will host a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference, which is considered the most prestigious of all college football conferences.

During negotiations with the Panthers, the city tried to include the ACC football championship among the rent-free dates. But Kimble said the Panthers resisted that proposal.

The ACC Championship has been played in Charlotte for the past four years. Its current contract with the city has expired, though the ACC has indicated it would like to keep the game in Charlotte.

Before booking any events, Kimble said, the city and CRVA must determine the team’s construction plans for the stadium, which will undergo a significant renovation.

The team has said it plans to install new videoboards and escalators, among other improvements.

In exchange for the $87.5 million, the team agreed to a six-year “hard tether” to remain in Charlotte. Negotiations about a longer tether are expected to start as early as two years from now.

If the CRVA fails to use all of its available rent-free dates, the unused dates can roll over to the future, Kimble said.

Harrison: 704-358-5160

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