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Charlotte, Panthers, reach agreement on stadium

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The city of Charlotte and the Carolina Panthers have reached agreement on improvements of the team's stadium.

The plan calls for the city to contribute about $87 million for renovations to Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year deal to keep the Panthers in Charlotte.

That's less than the team was seeking for improvements of the stadium the opened in 1996.

City Council is expected to vote on the agreement Monday.

The initial called for an improvement package that totaled $250 million. The city would have paid half of that, along with other money for stadium maintenance and traffic control costs. The state and the team would have paid for the rest of the project.

That plan would have resulted in a 15-year commitment by the team to stay in Charlotte.

But state lawmakers rejected an increase in the local prepared food and beverage tax for the stadium. Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders also declined to give the team any state money.

In addition to the six-year commitment to keep the team in Charlotte, city leaders say there is an additional clause that would make it likely the team will stay at least 10 years, though the Panthers could leave without many difficulties.

Panthers president Danny Morrison said he considers it a 10-year agreement to stay in Charlotte. Morrison said he expects the stadium to last many more years.

He said the scaled-back improvements will make the stadium well-equipped enough to host a Super Bowl. But Charlotte may not have enough hotel rooms to host the NFL championship, Morrison said.

The first phase of the improvements will include escalators to take fans to the upper deck. The Panthers will also install new video boards and improve the sound system.

Dropped from the original improvement plan are club seats and improvements in the suites. Also, there will be no money for a new practice facility or larger entry gates and ticket office.

Owner Jerry Richardson has said he will not move the team from Charlotte. But city leaders worry that any potential new owner might move the team, perhaps to Los Angeles, the nation's second largest city and one without an NFL team.