ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Jerry Richardson, lead investor in the Charlotte, N.C., expansion bid, said modifications made last week in the city's payout to visiting teams contributed heavily to the Carolina Panthers' victory last night.
The 28 NFL owners voted unanimously to give Charlotte one of two expansion franchises.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had said the league would expand by two, but Charlotte was the only city that received a complete endorsement from the seven-member expansion committee. The league will decide the fate of Baltimore and the other three cities Nov. 30.
"We did it purposely, waited to see what everybody else put on the table, then waited for the 11th hour to improve ours," Richardson said.
Baltimore was the first candidate to announce it had a $1 million payout for visiting teams, but other cities then improved their packages to equal or top Baltimore's offer.
Charlotte had asked for a five-year waiver on club-seat revenue to help finance a stadium, but last week city officials asked the league to drop the waiver, which improved their payout to $1.3 million.
"I think that was the completion of the total package," said Bill Simms, 49, one of the team's minority owners. "We just decided we didn't need the waiver, and I think that was the final thing
that impressed the owners."
League owners also may have been impressed with Charlotte's reputation as one of the nation's fastest-growing cities.
Last month, Charlotte was depicted on the cover of Fortune magazine as the nation's next hot spot, and was said to be the favorite of NFL Properties, the league's merchandising wing, which expects retail sales of $3 billion in licensed goods this year. Charlotte also has several cities within a 2 1/2 -hour drive.
Tagliabue, though, would not go into specifics on why Charlotte was the favorite.
Richardson said: "Our fans bought all the season tickets the first day. They went out and brought the merchandise. All this talk about our financial problems and a deficit to finance a stadium [estimated at $60 million] was created by the media. If we had those problems, you think the NFL would have granted us this franchise?"
Simms also may have played a big role in Charlotte's selection. Simms is an African-American.
"Jerry knew what the league was looking for, and I was looking for the opportunity to come aboard," Simms said. "Do I think it was a major factor? No. Do I think it helped? Yes, without question."
Charlotte will begin play in the 1995 season. One of the first things new general manager Mike McCormack ruled out was the hiring of Joe Gibbs as coach.
"We're the new kids, and we're not going to risk tampering," McCormack said. "Joe Gibbs is out."
Gibbs, however, told the Charlotte Observer that he would be interested in hearing Charlotte's offer.
"I've prayed about it," Gibbs said, "and I plan to take this course: If they are interested in me, it probably would be the one place that would be the biggest pull for me."
Another possibility is Raymond Berry, the former Baltimore Colts wide receiver who was New England Patriots coach from 1984 to 1989. Berry is the godfather of Mark Richardson, Jerry Richardson's son.
"I've had some talks with Raymond Berry, but we don't have to make a decision on a new coach soon," McCormack said. "We'll wait until the season ends. Last year, three great coaches became available in Gibbs, Mike Ditka and Dan Reeves. Three more might become available after this season."
Stadium: 72,302-seat, $160 million stadium to be built by private financing.
Market: Population of 1.2 million (42nd among U.S. cities). TV market ranked 29th.
Ownership: 15-member partnership led by former Baltimore Colt Jerry Richardson, who owns Denny's and Hardees restaurants.
OWNERSHIP GROUP * Jerry Richardson, Spartanburg, S.C., chairman and chief executive officer, Flagstar Companies, Inc.
* John Belk, Charlotte, chairman, Belk Stores Services, Inc., the largest retailer in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Tom Belk, Charlotte, president, Belk Stores Services, Inc.
* H. C. "Smoky" Bissell, Charlotte, chairman and chief executive officer, The Bissell Companies, commercial real estate
* Erskine Bowles, Charlotte, president, Bowles, Hollowell, Conner Co., investment banking firm; administrator, Small Business Administration.
* Derick Close, Fort Mill, S.C., national sales manager, Wamsutta, a division of Springs Industries.
* Elliott Close, Fort Mill, S.C., owner, The Lake Club, real estate
* Cameron Harris, Charlotte, president, Cameron M. Harris Insurance Co.
* John W. Harris, Charlotte, president, The Harris Group, commercial real estate services
* Donald Keough, New York, former president and chief operating officer, The Coca-Cola Company; chairman, Allen & Co., Inc., investment banking company.
* Leon Levine, Charlotte, chairman and chief executive officer and director, Family Dollar Stores, more than 2,000 retail outlets in 33 states.
* Richard Loughlin, Newport Beach, Calif., president and chief executive officer, Century 21 real estate corporation.
* William Simms, Charlotte, president, reinsurance division of Transamerica Life Companies.
* Jerry Wordsworth, Rocky Mount, N.C., chairman and chief executive officer, MBM Distributing Corp., food distribution.
* Steve Wordsworth, Rocky Mount, N.C., executive vice president and treasurer, MBM Distributing Corp., nation's largest privately held food distribution company.