Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., will be home to an MLS team in 2021. (Getty Images)
Team president Tom Glick describes event-level club, supporters bar planned for stadium
Populous is designing the retrofit of Bank of America Stadium for MLS Charlotte, a project to include a new event-level premium club and a large bar for supporters groups just inside the gate on the facility’s east side.
Tom Glick, president of the yet-to-be-named soccer team as well as the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, confirmed the architect and provided greater details on upgrades to the 23-year-old venue. The stadium is home to the Panthers, and Panthers owner David Tepper owns the MLS expansion team, which will start play in the 2021 season. Tepper Sports and Entertainment is the holding company formed for business tied to both teams.
“The first thing to understand about Bank of America Stadium is it’s already an amazing venue for soccer and that’s one of the reasons (international matches) have sold so well, is that it’s a great viewing experience,” Glick said.
“Operationally, it works very well at event level,” he said. “A full FIFA regulation pitch fits in perfectly, with no issues with corners and corner kicks. There are no issues with sightlines. The viewing experience for fans is excellent. We’re not starting with something that’s a problem; we’re starting with something that works very well.”
Populous, the Kansas City architect working with the Panthers, designed the stadium and is involved in the NFL team’s new headquarters and practice facility project in Rock Hill, S.C. For MLS, the firm has designed multiple soccer-specific buildings that include Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minn., and Audi Field in Washington D.C., two of the league’s newest stadiums.
In Charlotte, project officials are in the early stages of developing a plan to carve out a center tunnel on the stadium’s north side, tied to a premium club both teams will walk through on their way to the field. The concept is common across MLS and at newer NFL stadiums, dating to the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, which opened in 2009.
Bank of America Stadium’s infrastructure features a high retaining wall at field level. It stands 7 to 8 feet tall and provides enough space to build the tunnel itself with a minimal loss of seats, Glick said.
MLS Charlotte will have club-seat packages and field-level seats with exclusive access to the tunnel lounge.
“We’ve done quite a bit of research already with soccer fans about what they want, and we’ll continue to do that now with our deposit members. It will definitely include some great club seat options for our fans,” Glick said.
Inside the Lowe’s Home Improvement gate entrance, major adjustments are in the works to accommodate MLS Charlotte supporters groups, the sport’s most fervent fans that make up the lifeblood of soccer. The goal is to replicate the energy supporters bring to the match at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles and CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Glick said.
“We’re modifying that end to include a giant supporters bar and club,” Glick said. “In that end, we will be curating an area for supporters who want to stand and cheer. We will build with our fans a great environment there.”
The tunnel club and supporters bar will be accessible during Panthers games, he said.
Glick said the concept of building a roof canopy, a signature feature at most MLS venues, was never seriously considered because of the high cost and owner David Tepper’s vision for building a new stadium in the future for both football and soccer.
“We wouldn’t want to do anything like that and only have it be used for five to seven years,” he said.
Initially, project officials will focus on improvements to the 37,000 lower-bowl seats before turning to the upper deck. There are options on the table for closing parts of the upper deck that could include tarps and lighting solutions, depending on ticket demand, Glick said.
“Season-ticket sales are off to a fast start,” he said. “Let’s see where we get to. We had 30,000 in for the U.S. women’s national team in October and it was an amazing environment. We fully expect this club will have big crowds, so we fully expect to need big capacity. Rather than guessing if 20,000 to 30,000 seats would be the right amount (in a soccer-specific venue), we need more than that, which means we’re working with the right place.”
Separately, the Panthers hired Gensler to design some bunker suites in the west end zone, where the home team enters the field. Team officials are still working out the logistics of that project and will discuss it further at a later date, Glick said.