A behind the scenes tour of the Panthers Stadium
Posted on 24 Aug 2009 by Rob Cummings
I had the opportunity to get an up close and personal tour of Bank of America stadium over the weekend. Before describing my experience, I want to give a quick shout out to John Schwaller and the Third Ward neighborhood association for arranging the tours, and to Jeff Wells and Riley Fields of the Panthers organization for taking us through what seemed to be an endless maze of walkways, doors, and rooms, in the non-public corridors of the stadium.
Our tour started in Section 105 of the stadium. Jeff told us how opposing players rank our bermuda grass hybrid as the second best playing surface in the league. We also learned that the sound system is pointed northeast towards the city so that the sounds are projected away from residential neighborhoods (I do wonder if this was just a tidbit to get our tour guides in good graces with the Third Ward crowd). And that when a player throws a ball into the stands they are fined by the NFL, but when he hands the ball to a fan they are invoiced as a charitable donation. I noted that Steve Smith always hands the ball to a fan when he scores a touchdown….now we know that he is also making a charitable donation.
From the seating bowl we made our way to the club level. Jeff and Riley kept us full of interesting facts along the way. For example, when Jerry Richardson purchased the team he wanted to make sure the Panthers were a regional team and represented both North and South Carolina, and not just Charlotte. He had dirt brought to the construction site from every county in both states. In addition, he contemplated putting the stadium down near Carrowinds and the Knights stadium, with the 50-yard line as the border of North and South Carolina. Sounds like a cool idea but I am glad they built the stadium at its current location where the Good Samaritan Hospital used to stand.
After visiting the plush air conditioned corridor known as club, we then went ‘behind-the scenes’. Our first stop was the press area – press lounge, press box, and individual studios (NFL on Fox, visitor’s radio, Spanish radio, etc., etc.). It was here that I was asked, “Who are you a reporter for” as I took copious notes for my Charlotte Blog article….I responded,”just livin’ the dream” since my secret passion is to be a member of The Sports Reporters on Sunday morning on ESPN! In the press lounge we also learned that there are currently 882 flat screens, and over 800 miles of wires and cable in the stadium. Check out this view from the press box. Note that without the chalk lines, end zones, and players, the field is actually rotund and much larger than it appears on game days.
Our next stops were the media room, locker rooms, and training room. Along the way we got a visit from Sir Purr on his motorcycle. The kids loved it. The Topcats also emptied out of their locker room on the way to their practice on the Cedar Street field. We peeked into the visitors’ locker room. Nothing special except Jeff and Riley pointing out Brett Favre and Peyton Manning’s lockers. The next door took us to the media room where I was enamored with the sheer size of leather chairs in the theatre-style seating arrangement. But in reality, these chairs typically hold 300-pound men so that should have been expected. We then meandered our way into the Panthers locker room, an opportunity not typically afforded during public tours. The players had left the night before on their way to Miami for the pre-season game against the Dolphins. Suit bags, hundreds of shoes, personal photos, and media request notices for the upcoming week were the typical items I saw in each locker. Jake’s locker had a nice size container of fan mail waiting to be opened. I couldn’t help but think that maybe there was a reason it hadn’t been opened – I suspect many of those letters are not so friendly. It was eye opening to see how these refrigerator-sized cubbies served as each player’s office – and just as you may personalize your office or cubicle, the players do the same to their locker cubby.
If you were to ask me what I saw that I didn’t expect to see it would be the number of inspirational statements on the walls in and around the players locker room. For example, “Great Players Thrive On The Pressure Situations”. And, “Don’t Be Afraid To Be Great”. There was also a painted replica of John Wooden’s Pyramid Of Success. This reinforced to me the type of players the Panthers covet to represent the organization.
If you want to take your own tour of Bank of America Stadium, show up between 9:30 and 9:45a.m. on a Wednesday morning in front of the Stadium Ticket Office. The ticket office is located between the East and South gates on Mint Street. Public tours for groups of 10 or less do not require a reservation. Tours start promptly at 10:00 a.m. The cost for public tours are as follows: free for children under the age of five, $3 for children ages 5–15, $5 for adults and $4 for senior citizens age 55 and older. Children must be accompanied by a paying adult. The Bank of America Stadium Ticket Office accepts cash, personal checks verified with a driver license or an American Express or Visa card. Send me your comments on some of the hidden treasures you may see or hear during your tour!