CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) — On this day 27 years ago, the National Football League’s owners chose Charlotte as the site of its 29th NFL franchise — thus, the Carolina Panthers were born.
After years of anticipation beginning in 1987, former NFL wide receiver and eventual owner Jerry Richardson made his dream come true.
“This is a dream come true for me and my partners and for the 10 million people in the Carolinas,” said Richardson.
In April of 1987, the city of Charlotte was beginning to enter the big leagues as a professional sports city. NASCAR was continuing its growth in the state thanks to legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt who became American icons. The NBA had just made its way to Charlotte with the Hornets becoming the NBA’s 24th franchise.
Soon after, support for the future franchise poured in across the Carolinas. North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms and South Carolina Senator Ernest Hollings lobbied to the league on the team’s behalf. North Carolina Governor Jim Martin and South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell also threw their hats in the ring for the team, forming a committee of excited citizens from both states to help the cause.
In 1989, an area in Uptown Charlotte was selected as the site of the future home of the team.
A couple of sell-out neutral-site exhibition games followed, with the first two held at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh in 1989 and Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill in 1990. Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina would get the final exhibition game in 1991.
Richardson had steep competition among 10 other expansion cities including Jacksonville, Baltimore, Memphis and St. Louis.
At the 1992 NFL owners meeting, the pool of competing cities lessened from 11 to seven, with Carolinas’ bid making the cut. Months after that meeting, five cities remained.
Turbulence soon followed when on Oct. 20, 1992 the NFL’s owners voted to delay the expansion vote due to an ongoing labor situation until after the fall 1993 owners meeting. Fortunately, it never got to that point and a Collective Bargaining Agreement, as the league coins it, was reached in January 1993.
In March of 1993, Richardson announced his intentions to privately finance a 72,300-seat stadium.
Sale of Permanent Seat Licenses, club seats and luxury boxes began on July 1. A remarkable 15,000 pieces of mail from first-day orders were collected. By the end of the first day, all 8,314 club seats were sold out and all 104 luxury suites were reserved and ultimately leased. First-day PSL orders totaled 41,632.
Finally, on October 26, 1993, the NFL owners, unanimously selected the Carolinas as the 29th NFL franchise and the first expansion team since 1976.
Since then, Baltimore has gained a team. So has Jacksonville. St. Louis would eventually get one before moving to California years later.
Richardson remained the team’s owner until the 2018 offseason following controversy. David Tepper now owns the franchise.
In its history, the Panthers have been to the NFC Championship game four times, the Super Bowl twice, with one being inspired the phrase “Keep Pounding”, courtesy of team legend Sam Mills. The phrase has became the team’s mantra.
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