Ericsson Stadium opened in 1996 as the permanent home of the Carolina Panthers, who began their first
season of existence in temporary quarters at Clemson University before moving here. The venue sits at the
edge of downtown, and is a prominent part of Charlotte's architecture and skyline, as the stadium can be
seen at a distance from the interstate.
Getting to the stadium
Tucked in between expressway ramps and office buildings, Ericsson Stadium is situated in a dense area,
but can hardly be considered a "neighborhood ballpark", since the buildings in proximity are mostly office
buildings and parking ramps. While only a small number of parking spaces, mostly in ramps, can be found
directly adjacent to the stadium, most fans take advantage of the many private lots scattered in a 10 block
radius. $20 seemed to be the norm for parking here. With no one way in or out, the streets, of course, were
congested, but traffic seems to move well and we had no problem finding parking.
Even in a downtown setting, the tailgating scene was in full swing here, and we saw folks enjoying their
picnics in the lots all over the place. Several radio stations and other entertainment ventures had stages
and booths set up along our walk to the venue, along with vendors selling souvenirs. These folks pretty
much grab whatever vacant spot they can find to do their thing, and it all seems like organized chaos.
Outside the venue
The Panthers' stadium features three tall, black granite looking arched entry portals, each flanked by two 18
foot statues of fierce looking panthers. These statues rest on large pedestals engraved with the names of
charter personal seat license holders. The stadium colors - royal blue and silver inside, black outside -
reflects the team colors. The Stadium is surrounded by a natural landscape promenade to give it a parklike
setting - including spacious grass lawns, oak trees, colorful flower beds and shrubs which were quite
pleasing to the eye. The most interesting feature of Ericsson Stadium is that it looks like more of a fortress,
and captures some of the imposing feel of such notable venues as Chicago's Soldier Field and the Los
Angeles Memorial Coliseum
As we walked into the stadium through heightened security checks, we got a gander at the impressive
montage of murals above the turnstiles, heralding great moments in the Panthers short but already
significant history. Once inside, we were somewhat disappointed at the ambience of the concourses, while
plenty wide, seemed to be very dark and colorless. Access to the upper concourses, including the club level
concourse, is via ramp only, and this makes for a very long walk to get to the top. There is a main team store
on the 100 level. The upper concourse is open air, and on one side you can catch a breathtaking view of the
terrific Charlotte skyline.
The stadium has a sideline club level and is also encircled by two levels of enclosed suites, each with its
own climate controlled concourse. For "Bank of America Club" patrons, silver-colored seats are located in
the lower bowl along both sidelines of the playing field. Fans sitting in the club seats have access to
lounges on the fifty-yard line and four buffet areas, one in each corner of the stadium. Each lounge offers an
upscale food and beverage selection and features closed-circuit television and sound systems.
Custom-designed furnishings, carpets and finishes accent the lounges. The team colors are used
throughout and the panther is exquisitely incorporated into the club level's motif.
The seating bowl
With just over 73,000 seats, the seating bowl is done in team colors - blue and silver. At each end is a long
rectangular scoreboard and video replay board. Along the sideline upper level balconies are scrolling out of
town scoreboards and statistic boards. The slanting design lines of the upper deck and the cantilevered
light standards are somewhat reminiscent of the look of Arrowhead Stadium, although the look here falls a
bit short. The turf is natural grass.
Nothing notable here - the usual fare, along with some fast food chains from the area like Popeye's,
Dominos Pizza and Mr. Bojangles selling their stuff. One item of note was the "Carolina Ale" stand in the
upper level, selling various versions of their local brew. Smaller souvenir kiosks are scattered throughout
The Panthers honor their icons with life sized statues outside the stadium - their first two inductees are
former team president Mike McCormack, and linebacker great #51 Sam Mills. Their 1996 amazing run to
their only NFC West division championship was not commemorated anywhere from what we could see.
Touchdowns, extra points, fumbles
Touchdown - those terrific panther statues at each entrance. Called "indomitable spirit" they are the
signature piece of this venue, no doubt about it.
Fumble - the condition of the turf. This is North Carolina, and the grass does grow here, yet for a season
opener the grass was in atrocious shape, with huge chunks of grass dislodging, and a "turf crew" running
out during each TV time out to repair the field. This really slowed down the game, and quite frankly, was a
real disgrace to the Panthers organization.
Extra point - The out of town scoreboard not only scrolled NFL scores, but also NASCAR Winston Cup
updates from that day (Jeff Gordon was the eventual winner). Hey, this is North Carolina, the heart of auto
Extra point - we've seen youth hockey games during the intermission at NHL venues - so how about a youth
FOOTBALL game at halftime! One kid returned an interception 80 yards to the delight of the crowd.
Touchdown - the pregame ceremony. Being the season opener, tribute was paid to the heroes of the
terrorist attack, and was highlighted by a rendition of a stirring patriotic speech and a call to arms, capped
with the playing of "America the Beautiful". Well done!
THANK YOU!!! Special thanks to Barb at US Airways in Tampa. She is the check in agent who bent the rules
to allow us to get off the plane in Charlotte and attend the game.
We did a quick drive by this place in January, and when we saw the panther statues our expectations were
heightened. Therefore we were quite disappointed when we explored this place and discovered how
ordinary a stadium it really is, featuring just the basics in terms of fan amenities. On the field, the Panthers
took an early lead, and then fell apart in the third quarter enroute to a loss, and that deflated the fans here.
Given what we have seen in some of the other newer NFL venues, Ericsson Stadium really doesn't make
the cut versus its peer facilities. But we will stretch this and wring out 3 stars....
Food and team store 4
Scoreboard and electronics 6.5
Fan support 7
Location and neighborhood 7
Banners and history 5
In game entertainment 7
Concourses/fan comfort 6
Bonus: Tailgate scene 1.5, Panthers statues 1