Bank of America Stadium - Carolina Panthers
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Bank of America Stadium 800 S Mint St Charlotte, NC 28202
Year Opened: 1996 Capacity: 75,412
Nothing Could Be Finer Than Sunday Afternoons in Carolina
The Bank of America Stadium has been the home of the Carolina Panthers since 1996. (It opened as Ericsson Stadium, and Bank of America picked up the naming rights in 2004.) The stadium is unique as it was built with no public funding, relying on the first use of Personal Seat Licenses (PSL’s) as its source of capital for its construction. Bank of America Stadium holds 75,525 and has had sellout crowds ever since the 2002 season. Strategically, the team chose the name Carolina, rather than Charlotte, in the team name, as the fan base comes from both South and North Carolina.
Despite being over twenty year old, Bank of America still has some unique features not found in any of the newer stadiums. The exterior of the stadium has only three main gates, with each gate utilizing materials in the Panthers team colors of black, silver and accent blue (darker than Carolina blue and lighter than Duke blue, just to keep everyone happy)! Each of these gates is guarded by a pair of huge bronze panthers, especially cast for the stadium. A third unique feature is outside the stadium as well. Instead of a sea of parking lots, the stadium is surrounded by 11 acres of a very park-like environment. This includes several grass lawns, more than 150 oak trees and seasonal plantings of flowers.
The Panthers have been a very successful tenant of the stadium, as they went to their first playoff game only five years after the franchise started. The team has been to the playoffs seven times in 21 years, including 6 NFC South Titles, 4 NFC Championship games and 2 Super Bowls. Some of the Panthers most outstanding players over the first 20 years of the franchise are Sam Mills, Greg Olsen, Steve Smith, Julius Peppers, Jon Kasay and Cam Newton.
Food & Beverage 4
The concessions program is another way the Panthers excel at putting the fans first. In most stadium designs, a concession stand is usually planned on a ratio of one stand for every 300-500 people in the stadium. The ratio at Bank of America Stadium is one stand for every 150 people in the stands. As a result, there a staggering 718 concessions points of sale. This makes waiting in a line an almost non-existent occurrence.
So, what do these stands offer? Bank of America Stadium believes in serving foods native to the Carolinas. That means you will see products such as Carolina BBQ, Bojangles Fried Chicken and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, along with a Cheerwine soda.
Beyond these local favorites, the usual stadium fare is available. This includes hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, popcorn, nachos and Papa John’s pizza. Beverages include Pepsi products, bottled water, and beer (both domestic and craft are available). A nice feature is that free refills are available on all soda drinks.
The Panthers have done a great job in keeping Bank of America an enjoyable place to watch football through frequent renovations. This starts with the park-like setting found outside the stadium and continues into the interior. Despite its 75,525 seat capacity, it feels much more intimate than that. This is accomplished by keeping even the highest seats in the stadium close to the field of play. The original architects did a masterful job in ensuring there is not a bad seat in the house.
In recent years several important updates have been made in the facility. The most obvious is the installation of a pair of 55 ft. tall by 198 ft. wide HD video boards in each end of the field. These boards provide updated stats throughout the game, show replays and provide entertainment during lulls in the action. Ribbon boards have also been added to the fronts of the upper decks. Another important upgrade project was the renovation of all 153 suites in the stadium.
Away from the brick and mortar, Bank of America Stadium invests a great deal in creating a fun fan experience throughout the day. The Panthers Lair opens two hours before each game in the plaza outside of the stadium and offers a pep rally, appearances and autograph sessions with former Panther players, food trucks, music and lots of giveaways. Panthers in the Park is held a short distance away and is designed to stimulate youth fitness as a part of the NFL’s Play 60 Initiative. Once inside the stadium, the team offers Sir Purr’s Play Den. Named for the Panthers furry mascot, this play area helps to keep children entertained while the parents watch the game. Amongst the activities in this area are a miniature field to play on, kicking and passing skill games, a chance to dress up in a Panther uniform and have your photo taken and a pretend announcing booth where kids can watch a screen and “tell it like it is.” This feature is very popular with harried moms and dads.
Bank of America Stadium is in the Uptown area of Charlotte. This district is the business, sports, entertainment and restaurant hub for the Queen City. It includes the corporate headquarters for Bank of America, Duke Energy and the East Coast operations of Well Fargo Bank. On the sports front, the Spectrum Center (home of the Charlotte Hornets), the BB&T Park (home of the minor league baseball Charlotte Knights) and the NASCAR Hall of Fame are all found within the district.
The hospitality industry is also well represented in the Uptown District. There are more than 214 restaurants and fifty nightspots in Uptown, as well as many of the top hotels in Charlotte. Two restaurants within walking distance of the Panthers home are the Coca Cola Dog House and Ink and Ivy. The Coca Cola Dog House is the favorite hangout for Panther fans both before and after a game. It is literally across the street from the stadium. Its food is extremely inexpensive and on game days it is all decked out in black, silver and blue and even comes with its own artificial turf field in the parking lot. For a more upscale and sedate experience, try Ink n Ivy on South Church Street; they have a great craft beer selection and a very broad menu. Two hotels within walking distance of the stadium are the Courtyard by Marriott City Center and the Kimpton Tryon Park.
Most people think of the Carolinas as “basketball country.” However there is a strong fan base for football as well. Colleges such as Clemson, South Carolina, UNC and NC State typically have sellout crowds every Saturday in the Fall. The fans in Charlotte and the other parts of the Carolinas proved their football hunger back in 1995 when they coughed up for personal seat licenses in order to bring the NFL to the region and build the football stadium they would play in. This was done at a time when PSL’s had never been done before and fans were spending money before a team was even awarded to Charlotte. The team has played well since its inception, and the fans have shown their loyalty by selling out every game since 2002.
The central mantra in Panther Country is “Keep Pounding,” much like the “Skol” chant is used at Vikings games. You will hear it in cheers, see it on T-Shirts, up on the video boards and printed all over the stadium. The story behind “Keep Pounding” is quite poignant. Sam Mills was a defensive star for the Panthers for 16 seasons, becoming a coach for the team after retiring. A few years into his coaching career he developed terminal cancer. That season the team was behind at the half in a pivotal game to make the playoffs. Sam Mills stood before the team and challenged the team to “keep pounding,” i.e. no matter how much adversity you face, never give up and just keep trying. This was his personal way in dealing with his cancer. The team immediately responded, winning the game and going deep into the NFL playoffs. Sam Mills lost his battle with cancer, but his spirit lives on in every Panther fan. Before each home game, a huge drum is rolled onto the field marked Keep Pounding. The fans begin the chant. A person facing a serious life challenge, a member of the military or someone who has overcome adversity then comes out and pounds on the drum four times…once for each quarter of the game. After witnessing this, no matter how far behind the Panthers get, you can count on the team, and their fans, to keep pounding.
Charlotte offers a wide variety of options for getting to Bank of America Stadium. The stadium is located directly off I-277. Even though there is no parking except for suite holders directly at the stadium, there are more than 30,000 public parking spaces within a 10-15 minute walk. The Uptown area has many convention sized hotels within walking distance as well. The Charlotte public transit authority’s Lynx Blue Line light rail line has a Stonewall Station just two blocks from the stadium.
The state of North Carolina is one of the few states outside of the Northeast to have its own statewide rail system. NC by Train has a very popular Panther Train program scheduled for dates when the Panthers have a home game. The Panther Train starts in Raleigh and stops in 7 cities along the way. It arrives in Charlotte three hours before the kickoff and shuttle busses ferry riders from the train station to the stadium. The return trip takes place within a comfortable period after the conclusion of the game. This means fans from other parts of the state can attend Panther games without spending a hotel night in town.
Return on Investment 4
The average ticket cost for a ticket to a Panthers is $80, ranking amongst the lowest in the NFL. However, if you are buying a single game ticket, keep in mind that only 7,000 of the 75,000 seats are single game tickets. Most likely you will have to buy your tickets on the secondary market. The concession prices are quite reasonable, especially with free refills on sodas. Hotels on game weekends tend to be in the $200 range. Parking is $10 – $30 depending on the parking facility. The Lynx light rail system and the Panthers Train offers some public transportation alternatives that can save you quite a bit of money.
The Panthers played their inaugural season at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, more popularly known as Death Valley.
An extra goes out to the entire Panther game day staff. They are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful for any needs you may have.
In addition to the Panthers, the Bank of America Stadium plays host to the Belk Bowl, the ACC Football Conference Championship game and the Belk Kickoff Classic. The stadium has also hosted a Rolling Stone Concert and a Billy Graham Crusade.
In addition to the six Panther sculptures there are statues of owner Jerry Richardson, the GM and architect of the first Panther teams Mike McCormack and player / coach Sam Mills.
The Panther Train deserves an extra for its uniqueness outside of the Northeast U.S. rail corridor.
The Carolina Panthers are a winning team both on and off the field. The record on the field speaks for itself. Off the field the Panthers commitment to providing a quality fan experience is shown each Sunday through its friendly game day staff.