So I read recently that the North Carolina Senate pushed along HB 193, a bill that would give the City of Charlotte taxing authority that would eventually be used to give the Carolina Panthers a nine-figure sum to renovate their stadium. By a 45-0 vote, including 31 Republican Senators (you know, the “party of small business”), a rich football team could get gigantic subsidies while startups and small businesses get the shaft yet again. This outrage must be stopped!
Make no mistake: The Panthers do not urgently need this money. Websites like Field of Schemes and Deadspin highlight stories that show that the Panthers are probably worth a billion dollars already, will earn over a billion dollars over 10 years in television revenue alone, and that the Baltimore Ravens are doing their stadium renovation almost completely private, except for some traffic signs.
As someone who has written about sports infrastructure for years, I freely admit many other projects are excessive overreaches to benefit rich people and large corporations, instead of proposals like mine which are modest and for many different groups.
Do local Senators not understand that Charlotte gets enough representation from their own Senators? How long has Asheville waited to build a regional arts center that the people of Asheville clearly want? In fact, Asheville is drastically scaling down the project and the State still won’t give them “scraps off the table.”
Meanwhile, Charlotte has gotten hundreds of millions of dollars for the NASCAR Hall of Fame (when there’s a NC Racing Hall of Fame in Mooresville), the Time-Warner Cable Arena, and other non-sports projects, while comparative “peanuts” are spent on the U. S. Cellular Center. We might get money for Interstate 26 widening in ten years. This hurts our ability to attract commerce. Talented young adults will go to where the money is going.
Some of you may have wondered what happened to the “WNC Dome” project I proposed (www.wncdome.com). It would be a concrete dome arena that is primarily a regional disaster shelter. It would have been built at the WNC Agricultural Center. A similar dome in Birmingham withstood an EF-5 tornado virtually undamaged, while nearby homes were decimated, killing 10 people. It could also host several sports and help Western Carolina University’s Sports Management department.
While the management there liked the idea, their superiors oppose it. The excuses given are irrelevant if a tornado ever hits this area, or a major hurricane hits the coast of the Carolinas and people die because they couldn’t evacuate to a building proven to resist such storms.
I suggested building a smaller dome just as a basketball court but mainly as an evacuation center. Similar domes are being built in Texas and elsewhere due to recent weather disasters. None of their excuses possibly apply to the Eastern NC Agricultural Center in Williamston, which is at even greater risk from tornadoes and hurricanes. Personal benefit means nothing to me. In 2011, in neighboring Bertie County, my mother-in-law’s aunt and cousin died from the tornado attack that killed 11. Was told they’d get back with me on that idea. Uh-huh. Do they own State property or do we?
If State leaders can find a way to bail out a billionaire football owner (who pushed himself to the head of the line), I fully expect them to find a way to build regional disaster shelters statewide, whether ours is at the Ag. Center, the Taproot property, the land donated by ArvinMeritor to Fletcher, etc. Football won’t be of much value to people that died from natural disasters certain to come.