The Panthers have their eyes on an end zone at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., for bunker suites. (Getty Images)

RFP seeks designer for end zone units with no views to field

The NFL’s Carolina Panthers plan to build bunker suites at Bank of America Stadium that are scheduled to open for the 2020 season, according to a request for proposal issued to sports architects.

VenuesNow obtained the RFP and reached out to the Panthers. Tom Glick, the team’s president of business operations, and Scott Paul, vice president of stadium operations, did not return emails for comment. Paul did not respond to a voice message left on his office phone.  

The Panthers are moving ahead with the project after surveying a select group of season-ticket holders about developing a variety of new premium seat products, including loge boxes and a new club restaurant, as reported by the Charlotte Agenda, a local newsletter and website.

The first concept is to develop bunker suites at ground level in the stadium’s west end zone, encompassing 7,000 to 9,000 square feet. The Panthers run onto the field from a tunnel at that end of the stadium.

The suites, constructed beneath the seating bowl, would have no views to the field. The seats for those patrons would be in the first few rows of the lower bowl, as stated in the RFP.

The private suites would include a wet bar, living room area, dining table, restrooms and catered meals, as mentioned in the proposal. There is no specific number listed for how many bunker suites will be built, but each lounge would accommodate 10 to 12 individuals.

All bunker suite holders would have preferred parking with access to their suite through a private stadium entrance.

The Panthers’ suite concept is more similar to the big league arena model than to the end zone setups at three newer NFL stadiums. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, U.S. Bank Stadium and AT&T Stadium all have end zone suites at ground level, open to the field of play.

Two older venues, Lucas Oil Stadium and CenturyLink Field, also have field level suites behind the end zones with views to the game.

Regardless of the setup, big league and college teams command top dollar from developing event-level spaces.

Fans are willing to pay a premium to be close to the action with the possibility of brushing against their favorite players, whether it’s the living room boxes at Hard Rock Stadium near Miami or tunnel clubs in which players walk through the middle of those lounges to get to the playing surface.

At U.S. Bank Stadium, for example, the Minnesota Vikings’ touchdown suites cost $180,000 to $225,000 a season at a building that opened in 2016. They seat 18 to 23 people, a little bigger than what the Panthers have in mind.

In Charlotte, the Panthers have a few issues to consider as they do the math for their return on investment, said Jim Renne, senior vice president and Jones Lang LaSalle’s national director of sports and entertainment.

Renne worked for Rossetti when the Detroit design firm met with the Panthers about a year ago to discuss potential stadium upgrades. Some existing seats would most likely be eliminated by building a pathway between the bunker suites and the bowl, and team officials are  concerned about PSL holders affected by the retrofit.

“One of the biggest challenges is how do they mitigate some of the legality of those licenses,” he said. “There’s a market for it with limited inventory. They don’t have anything unique at that stadium. This is something new.”

The deadline is Sunday to submit design proposals with a selection made by June 11, as stated in the document. The project budget will be determined by Sept. 30 and a construction firm selected by Nov. 15.

Interior demolition tentatively starts Dec. 15 after the Panthers’ final regular-season game. The project is to be completed by July 31, 2020.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was originally posted.