Economist discusses pros, cons of renovating Bank of America Stadium

As the public awaits more information on the Bank of America stadium renovation proposal, Channel 9 is asking whether taxpayers will get their money’s worth.

Earlier this month, Channel 9′s Joe Bruno reported that the city of Charlotte has had discussions with Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper about a $1.2 billion stadium renovation project that would be half-funded by taxpayers.

PAST COVERAGE: City discussed $1.2 billion framework for Panthers stadium renovations

Fred Smith, an economics professor at Davidson College who teaches a class on sports business, says people who live in Charlotte do get a benefit from having the Panthers in town, even if they don’t pay to go see games.

“As a sports fan, I talk to my friends at Davidson College about whether they saw the recent game or did they see who the Panthers just drafted,” Smith said. “Those are benefits an economist would call positive externalities. I get utility and enjoyment out of those things, and I don’t pay for that. Now, the notion that those positive externalities are worth hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars … that’s a tough sell.”

Smith said those types of benefits are the only argument one can make for using taxpayer dollars for stadium funding.

“You will find the rare professional sports team owner who would argue that, in fact, the fans and the community should not be paying for this, that it’s a private, for-profit business, and that ultimately, the owners ought to pay for the facility,” Smith said. “The owner of the Golden Knights, the new hockey team out in Las Vegas, he actually came out publicly and basically said that’s the appropriate way for these things to be funded.”

“But ultimately, the reason that the public funds get used is because these owners have a tremendous amount of leverage,” Smith said. “There are a number of cities that could support an NFL franchise. And so, you know, to be blunt about it, if David Tepper doesn’t get the deal that he wants here, he can look elsewhere. And I’m not suggesting that he’s doing that. But, you know, at the end of the day, the NFL franchise is a very sought-after commodity. Cities are very interested in attracting franchises to their city. And we’ve lived through something like this already in Charlotte with losing the Hornets.”

Watch the full interview between Channel 9′s Evan Donovan and Fred Smith in the video player below.