CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Felix Sabates confirmed to NBC Charlotte Thursday two NASCAR drivers are now part of the group he is assembling in the hopes of buying the Panthers. Sabates, who spoke by phone with NBC Charlotte’s Rad Berky, would not name the two drivers or say if they were current or former drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Jeff Gordon for example.
Charlotte Motor Speedway's Smith family talks of joining bid Last week, NBC Charlotte first reported from sources NASCAR owner Brian France was part of the Sabates group. Sabates said Wednesday Bruton Smith, who operates Charlotte Motor Speedway and other tracks across the country, had had discussions with Sabates about joining the group, as did Smith’s son Marcus.
A NASCAR spokesperson would not comment on the significance, if any, of five individuals from NASCAR who were now interested in buying the Panthers. Sabates also said Thursday he has been in touch with Allen & Company, the New York based investment bank that is handling the sale of the Panthers. Sabates said it is now up to the bank to get back to him with more details about filing a formal bid. Earlier this week, NBC Charlotte reported from two sources that there is interest in building a new stadium for the Carolina Panthers in the Carowinds Boulevard area.
Farmer Jim Miller owns 220 acres of land right on the line between North and South Carolina and his property fits the bill. Sabates would not confirm to NBC Charlotte that he is looking at Miller's farm, but he has said if his group does buy the Panthers, they would need a new domed stadium with parking for 20,000 cars. The Miller farm would fit that bill with ample space for high-revenue parking, something an uptown location would likely not be able to offer. And there is this connection: Jim Miller has a son named Steve, whose wife went to school with Felix Sabates' son. Jim Miller is a longtime Panthers fan and said it was intriguing to think about the future and the possibility the Panthers would be playing on the old Miller homestead. “Yeah, that sounds pretty good, doesn't it?” he said with a smile. When Minneapolis built a new stadium, the city was awarded a Super Bowl. Dan McElroy, head of Hospitality Minnesota, said the state had to agree to dedicate 19,500 rooms to the NFL. The NFL requires at least 25-thousand hotel rooms to be available within an hour's drive of any stadium hosting the Super Bowl. Minneapolis has 8,973 rooms in the city and 41,612 in the Metro Area. Charlotte's numbers are even lower. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority says there are 5,285 rooms in uptown and 26,408 in all of Mecklenburg County. Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt says more hotel rooms are being developed in uptown. "Oh, they are coming. Most of them are two to four hundred bed hotels," said Eiselt.