CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers are excited and ready to welcome some fans back at Bank of America stadium after Governor Roy Cooper said he’ll likely allow it to happen by next week.
The North Carolina governor announced Tuesday that outdoor event venues could open at 7 percent capacity starting Friday, Oct. 2.
Venues like Bank of America stadium, which has a capacity of more than 75,000, would be included in the event venues permitted to open at the reduced capacity.
A team spokesperson for the Panthers provided a statement in response to the announcement.
“We are excited to welcome some fans back to Bank of America Stadium beginning Oct. 4, and we thank the state of North Carolina, the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County for partnering with us in these efforts. We have worked for months to develop and implement a responsible and comprehensive plan for the return of fans and we are confident that it will ensure that the game day experience is enjoyable and as safe as possible,” the statement read.
The Panthers spokesperson said the team will continue to follow guidelines provided by the CDC, local and state government as well as the National Football League, and will be prepared to adjust policies as necessary.
The large outdoor arenas are safer than indoor event venues, Gov. Cooper said, and allow “plenty of room” for social distancing. Masks would still be expected to be worn.
The Panthers originally wanted to have a limited number of fans for their first home game this season Sept. 13, but the team was denied an exception for the game by the state.
The team later announced they would start the season at home without fans, but owner David Tepper made it crystal clear he would like to see fans back in the stands by October.
Tepper pointed out there would be a competitive disadvantage if the team wasn’t allowed to have some fans by October since the rest of the NFC South teams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans, were expecting to play their games in front of fans around their third game.
“It’s hard to not have fans in the building especially when all our division rivals have fans in their building,” Tepper said.
“I think the league is determined that the teams that can have fans will have fans and the teams that can’t have fans, can’t have fans. It’s just a question of how the different regions are, I guess, and what they view and how the different governors are, and it’s maybe how much they like football or not,” Tepper joked.
Tepper regrets fans not being in attendance to start the year. He also says he is disappointed that families of first-year players won’t be able to be in attendance, as well as families of other players and coaches.
“I don’t love all the red ink that we’re going to see this year, but I hate more not seeing the fans in the building. I have other means, OK, of income. I do have other businesses,” Tepper said. “I’m using this for the fans and for football.”
“I miss the fans, that’s what it’s about, it’s about winning and the fans,” Tepper said. “They are an undeniable edge for us.”