Inside The Vault: MLS renovation of the NFL site

The bar inside The Vault, the new tunnel club at Bank of America Stadium. Populous designed the football-focused renovation of the NFL facility. (Don Muret/staff)

Technical extras: Canopy LED board, Amazon crate-less system

CHARLOTTE — Officials at Tepper Sports & Entertainment this week unveiled the shiny new tunnel club at Bank of America Stadium, the centerpiece of a $50 million renovation of the NFL venue to host Major League Soccer.

Charlotte FC, an MLS expansion team, play their first home match on March 5 against LA Galaxy. Tepper Sports is the parent company of Charlotte FC and the NFL Carolina Panthers.

This day also marks the start of The Vault, the upscale 4,500 square foot event-level lounge that the home team will pass through on their way to and from the pitch. Their dressing room is behind the club.

For football, the 150 field-level seats tied to The Vault are sold out, said Jake Burns, Tepper Sports chief revenue officer. The cost was around $3,500 for a personal seat license and $7,200 per person for a subscription, industry sources said. Food and drinks are included in the price.

Inventory drops to 100 field-level seats for Panthers games. These ticket packages will go on sale in late spring and more details on this process will be announced in the coming weeks,” Burns said.

Populous, the original architect of Bank of America Stadium, which opened in 1996, designed the soccer-focused renovation. The overall project extends to a 211-foot-long LED canopy panel outside the stadium along Mint Street and two large Michelob Ultra Taproom branded bars, topped with 360-degree video screens to view live game action.

Behind those bars are two new take-out market stalls that will be equipped with Amazon Just Walk Out technology, a free payment system that was introduced last fall at NHL arenas in Seattle and New York. The system was added late in the project’s development and it’s unclear if it will be in place for the home opener.

Populous Senior Manager Kelly Kerns is part of Charlotte’s design team and has experience in NFL stadiums to meet MLS needs. More than twenty years ago, along with the former Ellerbe Becket, Kerns served as project manager at Seattle’s Lumen Field and then at Seahawks Stadium. From the start, it was designed for both soccer and football, although Seattle did not yet have an MLS team when it opened in 2002.

In Charlotte, Populous took underused staff storage and check-in spaces and general empty spaces at the service level to design The Vault, effectively converting it into revenue-generating amenities. That’s typically the case with renovations when teams are looking for space to build high-end inventory, Kerns said.

The new stadium canopy LED panel, 211 feet long. (Don Muret/staff)

The tunnel club concept itself is a standard feature at most MLS football-specific stadiums, as well as the NFL, dating back to AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys which opened in 2009.

To design The Vault, Populous was inspired by Charlotte’s reputation as a banking center. The club’s name itself refers to Charlotte’s nickname, ‘Mint City’, Kerns said.

Additionally, Tepper Sports took notes from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, when the Panthers played an NFL game in London, England, in 2019, said Mark Hart, vice president and chief operating officer. Populous also designed it.

“Everyone on the Charlotte FC side has pitched in,” Hart said. “It’s not just for soccer; this club was designed to be versatile. We are a league of thieves. We all like to steal good ideas.

The Vault’s textured tiles, a variety of sofa and armchair arrangements, and an LD linear lighting system on the ceiling help set the mood. Those lights above can change color and create a pulsating effect, Kerns said.

Walking through the club, there is a long bar with a stone counter and a dozen stools, supported by a sitting area. TV monitors can mark The Vault for soccer or football depending on the event.

Technologically, Daktronics produced the canopy screen and the two 360 degree screens above the Michelob Light Taproom bars. Canopy design has never really been done to this extent in a sports facility. Its concave shape posed a challenge for Daktronics to create a curved, downward-facing LED structure and maintain a vibrant, seamless display, Kerns said.

“It’s going to create some cool messaging throughout the week as well as wave goodbye to fans and other event-goers,” he said. “They’re projecting (approximately) 12 million impressions over the course of a year that people will see. It also provides some coverage for people entering the stadium.

Grab-and-gos replace three old belly-up style concession stands. They were strategically placed at the east end where Charlotte FC supporters end their march to the stadium for football matches, Kerns said.

Charlotte FC players will pass through this lounge space in The Vault on their way to and from the pitch. (Don Muret/staff)

The free payment technology is part of the Levy Stadium concessionaire’s goal of providing faster and more efficient service. About 15 years ago, the Panthers actually pioneered the market concept under Todd Smoots, former general manager of the team’s former in-house catering operation.

Levy single-handedly built a 2,800-square-foot event-level kitchen as part of the upkeep of The Vault and The Gallery, a cluster of 14 bunker suites in the west area of ​​the stadium that officially opened. its doors in 2021, said Carter Witt, the company. vice president of hospitality and strategy.

All told, Tepper Sports & Entertainment can now boast a stadium featuring two of the finest event-level clubs in professional sports to meet the needs of premium customers for multiple events.

That will be fine for now, as Panthers and Charlotte FC owner David Tepper remains determined to build a new stadium not far from the current facility.

Until then, Bank of America Stadium, which underwent $175 million renovations over the past decade before Tepper bought the team in 2018, will remain busy.

“I checked next year’s schedule and between football, (five) concerts and other events, we have over 35 additional dates in addition to NFL games,” Hart said. “We keep a lot of people happy and excited. Over the next few years, we might see different (renovation) ideas. »