Sep 2, 2020 - News

Panthers owner David Tepper: We can safely host a limited number of fans at Bank of America Stadium

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mls bank of america stadium banner

David Tepper is confident the Panthers can safely have at least some fans at Bank of America Stadium this season.

Without them, he fears the Panthers will be at a competitive disadvantage in a league where some teams are in states with looser restrictions.

In a Zoom briefing with reporters Wednesday afternoon about coronavirus, Tepper said that the Panthers began formulating a plan back in March for how to safely play football with fans during a pandemic. The team consulted with infectious disease experts. They used computer simulators to figure out what social distancing could look like.

“We don’t think we can do it with a full stadium, obviously. But … we can do limited fans very safely in the stadium, based on pure science,” Tepper said.

The billionaire NFL owner’s comments came a day after North Carolina loosened some restrictions on social gatherings. In announcing a move to phase “2.5,” Governor Cooper said that outdoor gatherings can now have up to 50 people. For indoor gatherings, it’s 25 people.

Bank of America Stadium holds more than 75,000. Earlier this summer, the Panthers said that home games will have reduced seating capacity based on guidelines from local government and health experts. In an email to Permanent Seat License holders, the team said that PSL owners could opt out of the season without penalty.

Tepper estimates that to date, a little more than half of PSL owners have opted out of their season tickets.

“We have a pretty good contingent that wanted to be in the stands,” Tepper said Wednesday.

Last month, county officials confirmed there will be no tailgating this NFL season in Charlotte. Earlier this week, the team said that it would not have fans in stands for its home opener September 13.

States where rival teams call home — such as Georgia (Falcons), Florida (Buccaneers), and Louisiana (Saints) — are allowing some fans. At the same time, teams in states like California and New York are not expected to have any fans at all this season.

Tepper says he hopes to have further conversations with Cooper about allowing for at least some fans eventually this season.

“It is not an advantage not to have fans,” he said. “I particularly like fans at games. Anyone who knows me knows that.”

The pandemic has canceled live concerts, too, which were scheduled to make a big return to the stadium this summer. Garth Brooks, Billy Joel, and The Rolling Stones were all scheduled to perform at the stadium in the past four months — and all were shut down.

Also pushed back because of Covid-19 restrictions: The Untappd Beer Festival. And Charlotte’s Major League Soccer team will begin playing in 2022, instead of 2021 as was the original plan.

Amid the mounting loss of business, Tepper either cut or furloughed 23 employees last month. Before that, the team cut 15 business-side employees, though they’ve said that wasn’t related to coronavirus.

None of these decisions were easy ones, Tepper told reporters.

In the call Wednesday, Tepper answered questions about a range of topics.

On the statue of former owner Jerry Richardson, which was removed earlier this summer, Tepper said he’s not bringing it back.

And on the conversation about building a new stadium, Tepper said Covid-19 has pushed all big decisions back. And if there is one thing the pandemic has taught him about stadium layouts, it’s that having fans outdoors could be a good thing. Previously, Tepper had said that he’d want a roof or a dome on top of a new stadium.

“Open-air stadiums with beautiful weather seem a lot better to me than they did last year, to tell you the truth,” Tepper said.

The 13-foot statue of former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was removed from the front of Bank of America Stadium in June
The 13-foot statue of former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was removed from the front of Bank of America Stadium in June.
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