Construction has started on soccer-specific renovations at Bank of America Stadium, which will transform Charlotte FC’s new home ahead of its Major League Soccer (MLS) debut.

The approximately $50m project includes significant enhancements to the Lowe’s East Gate at the home of the National Football League’s (NFL) Carolina Panthers, which will host MLS expansion team Charlotte FC from 2022.

The Lowe’s East Gate, which is the most-used entrance at Bank of America Stadium, will be upgraded to improve traffic flow, and will feature a striking 210-foot-wide single LED screen. The project also includes an upgraded main concourse and supporters’ bar just inside the gate, soccer-specific locker rooms, a central player tunnel, and a new premium club space and field-level seating.

The project, set to be completed ahead of Charlotte FC’s MLS bow in spring 2022, is being led by design firm Populous and general contractor Rodgers Building.

“The stadium enhancements are designed to provide the ideal environment for soccer,” said Mark Hart, vice president and chief operating officer of Tepper Sports & Entertainment.

“We looked at Premier League venues and many other stadiums around the world to ensure this is a truly great experience for our players and fans.

“We felt compelled to create a very special, larger-than-life entrance gate and it will be one of the most iconic gate entries in Major League Soccer.

“This central gate will act as a focal point for fans in their journey to the stadium, and for us, it helps to represent the unity of the crowd. Crucially, it will also serve as the main entrance for our most loyal fans in the supporters’ section.”

The new entrance will lead directly into the improved main concourse, which will house two brand-new taprooms and state-of-the-art food and beverage stations. The improved concourse will lead directly to the supporters’ section behind the east goal, where Charlotte FC’s most fervent fans will be cheering the team on.

“The fans are crucial to the success of our team, and it’s important for us to provide a vibrant and exciting game day experience,” said Hart. “A seamless entry to the stadium and the upgraded concourse will enhance our ability to provide an immersive match day experience, from the march to the final whistle.”

Additional upgrades include the transition to full colour-changeable LED stadium lights, and the construction of additional camera positions to enhance the television viewing experience.

A brand-new MLS-mandated central player entrance tunnel will be located on the north touchline, in a space currently occupied by a workshop and storage facilities. Surrounding the tunnel will be The Vault, a new premium club area.

The tunnel will lead directly to the new home locker room, meaning Charlotte FC’s players will enjoy a short journey to the field. The new player tunnel bisects The Vault, which will offer a unique tunnel club experience for around 250 fans and include field seating for around 125-150 fans.

“The Vault is our take on a concept that has had success in Major League Soccer, as well as stadiums throughout the world,” said Hart. “In addition to field-level seating along the north sideline, fans will be at the heart of the action when the biggest stars in MLS make their way out of the locker room and onto the pitch. It’s going to be an incredible experience for both the fans and players.”

Charlotte FC was due to make its MLS debut in 2021 but this was delayed a year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Images: Charlotte FC