CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers have unveiled the second phase of their five-year renovation plan for Bank of America Stadium, giving journalists a tour of one of 153 club-level suites that have been completely redone.
The Panthers spent $34 million to overhaul the suites and have committed $71 million toward stadium improvements over the past two years, nearly twice the $37.5 million they pledged in their public-private financing agreement with the city two year ago.
The 2013 deal gave the team $75 million for stadium renovation costs and $12.5 million for maintenance and traffic control over 10 years. The city kicked in $28 million toward last year's renovations, which included new video and ribbon boards, an enhanced sound system and escalators to the upper bowl.
The improvements this year focused on the suites and better cellular service.
Five things for fans to know about the renovations:
Suite-holders will have a better feel for the game
The suites now feature fully retractable windows, which previously opened only halfway. The first two rows of leather seats are located beneath heating units, and a third row of bar seats has been added.
No one should miss any action
Each suite has a minimum of five high-definition TVs, up from two in the former layout. The addition of middle aisles will make it easier for fans to get to their seats -- or to the kitchen area, which now features two mini-refrigerators instead of one. The bathrooms -- one in every suite -- also were re-done.
It'll be another year before the WiFi is improved
The Panthers upgraded their "distributed antenna system" to improve the cellular service throughout the 74,500-seat stadium. But the notoriously poor WiFi service will not be addressed until next offseason.
Lines for concessions should be shorter
In addition to the WiFi enhancements, the next phase in the renovations will include improvements to the 100- and 500-level concourses; namely, reducing the wait times for fans in line to buy food and drinks. Panthers president Danny Morrison said the team also plans to improve the lighting in the concourses and make them more aesthetically pleasing.
There are seats available for nonsuite-holders
The Panthers have about 1,000 single-game tickets remaining for each of their eight, regular-season games, slightly ahead of the pace from last season. The Panthers have sold out 125 consecutive home games, and 193 of 195 games (including preseason and playoffs) since moving into the stadium in 1996 following one season at Clemson.
Morrison said Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is committed to having one of the best stadiums in the NFL.
"And I think we do," Morrison said. "It's a classic American stadium. I know I use that term a lot, but you don't see many bowls anymore because bowls are expensive. ... The beauty of a bowl is circulation for fans. You can get anywhere in the stadium easily."