Foxx refers BoA stadium renovations bill to Economic Development - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Foxx refers BoA stadium renovations bill to Economic Development Committee

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Mayor Foxx referred the Panthers Stadium funding to the Economic Development Committee Monday, sources told WBTV.

The committee says it will be on the agenda for the noon meeting this Thursday.

The bill, which would give Charlotte City leaders flexibility to use convention center funds to help pay for renovations to Bank of America Stadium, passed during a Senate vote.

The bill, House Bill 193, passed last Thursday morning.

Before it did, Senator Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg said a few words addressing concerns from his colleagues.

"I'll tell everybody in the Senate - there's no new taxes, no new revenue, no impact at all on state revenue stream, and I urge you to support this bill."

On Wednesday, it cleared the Senate Finance Committee – in a voice vote with no opposition.

"We are appreciative of the passage of House Bill 193 in the Senate today providing the City with the flexibility to utilize existing convention center funding to reinvest in stadium improvements," said Councilman and Economic Development Chair James Mitchell.

"We now will re-engage with the Panthers to discuss a lower cost set of stadium improvements which also will yield a shorter tether of the team to Charlotte. The results of those conversations will then be shared in open session presentations to the Mayor and City Council," he continued.

Mitchell says Bank of America stadium will probably get 80-percent of the $110 Million that the Convention Center has in the fund.

"We are pleased that the bill has passed both the House and Senate and look forward to the next step of the process with the City," Panthers President Danny Morrison said Thursday.

Charlotte city leaders expressed concerns on Wednesday that some Senators were still opposed to the idea of tax payers money being used to help pay for upgrades.

But some senators told WBTV that their colleagues have come around to support the bill.

"As it was explained in committee the only thing it {bill} does is shuffle around money the city already – the Visitors Bureau already has" says Senator Dan Blue of District 14.

Senator Blue says expected Thursday's vote on the bill to see "overwhelming support" because "there is no reason for any opposition because it doesn't spend any state dollars and it doesn't generate any new additional income. Only Mecklenburg is affected."

Senator Rucho, who is from Mecklenburg County, says legislators who at first resisted the idea of public money going to the Panthers changed their minds because "we're not asking any new taxes, not changing anything other than activity for the city of Charlotte to allocate money that is presently going to the Convention Center."

In February, Charlotte City leaders announced a proposal that had the state chipping in $62 million and city raising $144 million to help pay for the $300 million upgrades to Bank of America Stadium.

Governor Pat McCrory refused to hand over state money, and lawmakers said they wouldn't approve an increase of the prepared foods tax so Charlotte could raise its share of the money.

But members of the Mecklenburg County Delegation filed a compromise bill that would allow Charlotte to use money from the Convention Center fund for stadium upgrades.

The House passed that bill.

Now that the vote has gone as predicted, and Senators passed the bill, Charlotte city officials will have to go back to the drawing board with the Carolina Panthers and come up with a new proposal.

The decision before the city is how to divide the money and pay for renovations to the Convention Center and Bank of America Stadium.

City leaders acknowledge since they're dealing with less money, they won't be able to force the Panthers to agree to stay in the city as long as they wanted. Initially, Charlotte wanted a 15-year tether from the Panthers.

Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell, who is part of the city's negotiating team, says after Thursday's vote "we'll come back to Charlotte and start having a discussion – what type of deal can we put together than can be a win for everybody."

Mitchell said Thursday, "Hopefully next week we can sit down and start discussing what lower cost improvement we can provide for Panthers that would keep them happy, convention center happy, and more important, I got to keep the city council happy."

The lingering questions will be how much of the $110M can the city afford to shift to the stadium? And how long will the team commit to staying in the city?

Copyright 2013 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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