"Even though it's been a decade [since the Panthers began play], people are still learning to be football fans ... in basketball country." Perhaps that's why Bank of America Stadium is "one of the quietest in the league." "There are people who will ask you to sit down on third-and-goal with the game on the line and the Panthers D on the field." "Panthers fans have a reputation for being a 'wine-and-cheese' crowd," where a "lady can walk into the lower level with a fur coat on," and fans are "often more worried about getting the wave started than a late fourth-quarter drive." "Many fans have a poor knowledge of football" and "have not learned how to cheer enough to create a hostile environment for the other team." In fact, "depending on whom the Panthers play, the other team's fans [often] outnumber Panthers' fans," a situation some attribute to a combination of Carolina "being relatively new in the league," and the city's "many transplants" "from NYC, Philly, Atlanta, etc." Admittedly, "we are not as rowdy as some fans; we are friendly and fun, not angry and hurtful, and we accommodate fans of other teams with good-natured ribbing." That may be admirable, but that's "not much of a home field advantage."
5 out of 10
FOOD & SOUVENIRS
Soda (22 oz.)
Beer (20 oz.)
Expected Meal Cost
This is North Carolina, so it should come as no surprise there "is good barbecue" to be found, especially the "good stuff" at JJR's BBQ Shack. If the "pretty long lines" for pulled pork discourage, many suggest "McAlister's Deli" with "locations on each level offering high-level sandwiches, sweet tea and lemonade." "Bojangles Chicken" is also "an area favorite," "although it's priced way too high." Prices for beer are "outrageous," but vendors serving "microbrews have their own tables" and offer a "quality brew for the same price as the [generic] stuff the next stand over." There's even a "beer garden on the upper deck." Heck, with that and the "homemade Philly cheesesteaks," who needs football?
6 out of 10
Stadium offers 4,000 spaces to season-ticket holders, but does not control any other locations.
Minus "huge parking lots right next to the stadium," parking is scattered over "multiple locations," a decentralization [that] means it is relatively easy to get in and out of the city on a game day." A "15-minute walk [from your car] can save hours in traffic." It can also save you money: "parking can be found for free if you're willing to walk seven or eight blocks." The downtown location of the stadium affords access "by many different routes," so long as one can avoid the "traffic and pedestrians that quickly clog city streets." At least those streets won't be hampered by a "public transportation system that does not get fans near the stadium in a timely fashion." The facility's proximity to the I-77 interstate tempts one to get on "right by the stadium" when leaving, but since "ramps onto the interstate clog up," fans are better served taking one of "the three or four different routes back to the interstate" and getting on at a different access point. Further complicating the exit process are the streets "shut down for pedestrian traffic," which make getting out very time-consuming." But "N.C. troopers keep things moving," in part a function of "the well-designed roadways into and out of the stadium."
7 out of 10
"A slow building tradition," tailgating has struggled to take hold "because there isn't a big parking lot next to the stadium where everyone congregates." "Parking lots are scattered" around the stadium, "so there is little tailgating continuity." However, "each lot seems to have its own vibe." Some have "live music and big TVs;" others have "out-of-the-box fried chicken;" and still more have "pull-behind grills for pig pickin'." Most, though, have the type of "N.C. barbecue everyone in the country should try." As for the crowds, "fans behave themselves," limiting their activities largely to "pickup football games between cars." Blue laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol before noon on Sundays have a lot to do with that, too.
7 out of 10
Steve Smith :: Bob Rosato/SI
Record through Week 9
Players Worth Watching
Steve Smith (WR), DeShaun Foster (RB), Julius Peppers (DE)
5 out of 10
"There isn't much intrigue or passion" at Bank of America Stadium -- it's "just clean and efficient; naturally, the stadium is named after a bank." At the very least, you can count on "great views, even from the cheap seats," where a fan can sit "in the last row of the upper deck ... and still be able to read the backs of players' jerseys." Getting to that last row -- or any row in the stadium's "nose bleeds takes a long time; you have to loop and loop and loop" around seemingly endless ramps "until you finally reach the fifth level." Access to other parts of the stadium is easier, thanks to "a staff that goes above and beyond in helping." The stadium has "numerous concession stands" and "huge bathrooms." And "unlike most new stadiums, it is fully enclosed at the sides," so it keeps the noise in and the wind out." Some believe Bank of America Stadium, while "a beautiful stadium," is just "a little too plain," others feel the "beautifully landscaped exterior," "black-and-gold Panthers eyes behind the end zones" and "bronze Panther statues at the stadium entrances" make the facility unique -- in a good way. Most important, "the stadium is well-designed for watching football."
8 out of 10
"It used to be a ghost town before and after games; now there are restaurants and bars open all over the place." That's quite a makeover for an uptown area of Charlotte some considered "run down 10 years ago." Where old warehouses once stood, "restaurants, small stores and art galleries" now sit. A "stone's throw away" are the "skyscrapers and hotels of downtown Charlotte." "This is just a clean, safe downtown" and a nice place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
7 out of 10
Odd, isn't it, that a team long built on defense would develop such a finesse atmosphere? The beautifully manicured field, the landscaping outside of the stadium, the laid-back crowds -- all suggest a precise West Coast style of offense. But that isn't what these fans get -- and it's to the organizations credit that it doesn't try to build a team in the area's "refined image." Whether that will ultimately connect with a fan base that often seems more interested in making a dinner reservation than in supporting a defensive stand seems yet to be determined. But the fact that Bank of America Stadium has not generated calls for a new facility after 10 years of use, especially in light of the newer, more elaborate stadiums being erected elsewhere, does say that this isn't a bad place to watch a game, no matter the style of play.