Charlotte Lining Up for Its Own Kickoff Game

Bank of America Stadium

(from Sports Business Journal, April 1, 2013) Charlotte, North Carolina will likely be the next city to host an annual kickoff game on college football’s opening weekend. Coordinators in Charlotte say that the event would be a prominent game with a bowl-like environment in an NFL stadium. The game would also include multimillion-dollar guarantees for the teams involved. Charlotte would join Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta as the only cities hosting opening weekend games such as this.

Charlotte Sports Foundation Executive Director, Will Webb, said schools from all five of the key conferences in college football have been contacted. The negotiations are aiming for an inaugural game in 2014 or 2015. He included that talks go as far as the 2021 season. Charlotte Sports Foundation endorses the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game and the Belk Bowl. Belk, a department store based out of Charlotte has been asked by Webb to be a potential sponsor for the kickoff game.

The NFL season usually kicks off a week after the college season, so stadiums are generally accessible. The Charlotte Panthers’ home stadium, Bank of America Stadium, would be the site of the event. It has hosted season-opening games in the past, most recently in 2011 when South Carolina played East Carolina. The games have had some success while focusing on regional teams, but an annual kickoff game would endeavor to entice additional national brands.

The other annual kickoff games guarantee up to $4 million per team, which is sufficient to be sensible enough for schools to give up a home game for the publicity of a prestigious opener. The bulk of the revenue would come from ticket sales and sponsorships. Television rights would be under the power of the competing teams’ conferences, so no rights fees would be received by the game.

“We’re close, but nothing is locked down,” said Webb, “It’s a chicken-or-the-egg thing. We’re hoping that if we lock down enough big-name teams, sponsors will be an easy sell.”