New playing surface coming to Bank of America Stadium

Bank of America Stadium is hosting another professional sports team soon. That requires some changes to the 26-year-old building, from the ground up.

With the addition of Charlotte Football Club, which will begin MLS play next spring, there could be up to 30 professional games a year played in the stadium.

Based on that increased activity, Tepper Sports & Entertainment vice president and chief operating officer Mark Hart acknowledged that the organization is making the switch to FieldTurf in order to provide a consistent playing surface.

In addition to a full slate of NFL and MLS games next year, there are more college football games (Appalachian State-ECU on Sept. 2 and Clemson-Georgia on Sept. 4, as well as the ACC Championship and Duke’s Mayo Bowl) on the docket, along with the potential for high school football games, Charlotte FC Academy matches and plans for many more events. There are already holds for concert dates into 2022, when the music industry expects to be back in full swing after being shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are discussions about many other events (sports and otherwise) in the future as well, and the stadium has already been used for early voting, mass vaccination events, and festivals.

“[David Tepper’s] vision is for the building to be a community asset,” Hart said. “With two major professional sports franchises using Bank of America Stadium, and more events upcoming, having a natural grass surface is going to be a heavy lift. We believe a synthetic surface provides the best solution.”

The stadium’s grass surface was consistently ranked among the top in the NFL in surveys done by the NFL Players Association. Historically, the players’ union has been opposed to artificial surfaces.

NFLPA President JC Tretter wrote last year that the union would prefer that every team switch to natural surfaces, for health and safety reasons.

Of course, weather and geography make that difficult to maintain. Currently, 17 teams play on some degree of natural surface, with 15 teams on artificial turf (including the shared stadiums in New York and Los Angeles). The Panthers’ divisional foes Atlanta and New Orleans both play on artificial turf.

The organization reached out to players from both the Panthers and Charlotte FC before the decision was announced to update them on the change.

“We have conveyed our commitment to the players to maintain this field at a level consistent with the highest standards,” Hart said.

Even though some stadiums have figured out how to use both natural and artificial surfaces (such as Arizona and the new Tottenham stadium in London), 26-year-old Bank of America Stadium isn’t built to accommodate such a “tray system” to roll in a second surface, nor is there enough real estate at the corner of Mint and Morehead to store a large patch of grass when it’s not being used.