‘An eyesore’: Third Ward residents have concerns about Panthers’ practice facility plan

Some residents are concerned about the Carolina Panthers’ plan for a revamped practice facility and the impact it might have on the Third Ward neighborhood.

City staff endorsed the team’s latest rezoning request related to the project — for 12 acres on the east side of South Cedar Street — in front of the Charlotte City Council at a Monday zoning meeting. But one resident said he and his neighbors still aren’t on board.

The Panthers are looking to expand their practice field setup after announcing they would move training camp to Charlotte from Wofford College, where the team had previously trained every year but one since the Panthers’ inception in 1995.

The filings, submitted in February, proposed the use of “practice/training facilities and field house facilities, indoor seating for sports and events/performances viewing on a periodic basis and up to 5,000 seats for such uses outdoors on a periodic basis.”

The filing included flexibility for the development to include a restaurant/bar, as well as retail and personal services, offices, mobile food and retail vendors, and lodging and overnight stays for “players, personnel, vendors, visitors and others” associated with the facility’s use.

A previous rezoning request filed in November led to the demolition of the team’s practice bubble and further construction on the site of the team’s longstanding practice facility outside of Bank of America Stadium.

Public hearing on Panthers’ latest rezoning request

At a public hearing on the latest rezoning request, resident Wesley Clark said his community is concerned about the team’s plan, especially on their view of the Charlotte skyline.

“It really is just an eyesore,” he said.

Clark said he and his neighbors would like to see the team build its new practice facility at the site of the old practice bubble.

Attorney Jeff Brown, who represented the team at the hearing, said sticking with the bubble isn’t feasible.

“The bubble was temporary in nature,” he said.

Brown said the team has listened to feedback from Third Ward residents at two community meetings and has done its best to cooperate, including reducing the height of structures planned for the site from 95 feet to 70 feet.

Council member Malcolm Graham, whose District 2 includes the site, said he was aware of a “number of concerns” in the community, including skyline views, the impact on property values, traffic impacts and a loss of trees.

“We will continue to work to resolve outstanding issues,” he said.

City planning staff told council members the team’s request is in line with the 2040 plan and recommended approval of the rezoning “upon resolution of outstanding issues related to transportation, land use, site and building design, and environment.”

Both city staff and Tepper Sports’ representatives at the meeting said they’re working together to resolve those issues, including making sure rights of way aren’t encroached on and the property has enough green space.

Following Monday’s public hearing, the petition will go to the city’s Zoning Committee for review. The City Council will then vote on a final decision.

Graham said another public meeting will be held on the proposal before the council’s final vote.

Charlotte Observer reporters Mike Kaye and Alex Zietlow contributed to this report.