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CHARLOTTE HAPPENINGS – Root for the Home Teams

Charlotte’s got a lot for sports fans to cheer about.

Charlotte’s professional sports scene lights up scoreboards across Crown Town the way planes take off and land at Charlotte Douglas International Airport – Often and with a full complement of patrons on board.

Whether you’re a Charlotte native cheering on your favorite team for decades or a newly-relocated transplant, the Queen City’s pro-teams deliver in big and exciting ways. And there’s more than thrilling entertainment on tap, our home teams create civic pride, spearhead philanthropic support and greatly contribute to our community’s culture and quality of life.

Here’s the backstory on five top pro-teams, how they came to town, a peek at what you’ll find at their games and what they mean to Charlotte.

Carolina Panthers 

No team in Charlotte has contributed more to the city’s sports identity on a national scale over the past 25 years than the Carolina Panthers.

Six years after filing an application with the league, former NFL player Jerry Richardson and his ownership team were awarded an expansion franchise by the National Football League creating the Panthers in 1993. This began a love affair with the city that has seen two Super Bowl appearances, decades of sold-out home games, a wildly loyal fan base, and an economic impact on Charlotte measured annually in the millions of dollars.

Richardson considered sites in both North and South Carolina before ultimately choosing Uptown Charlotte as home base for the team whose frequent and fabulous come-from-behind fourth quarter finishes have earned them the nickname the “Cardiac Cats.”

Home-game Sundays in Uptown Charlotte are strewn with Panther colors of Silver, Blue and Black as tailgaters surround Bank of American Stadium for blocks before and after the games.

Beloved community contributors from their earliest days, the Carolina Panthers organization, their coaches, players and associates have time and again shown their bigheartedness, philanthropic spirit and can-do attitude through the countless charitable events they lend their support to annually.

The team mantra of “Keep Pounding” introduced and inspired by former Panther player and coach Sam Mills in 2004 lives on today inspiring Charlotteans to persevere despite obstacles in their way. A tradition was born as each game day see fans at the stadium cheering on team-mascot Sir Purr as he hands off the drum-baton to the game-day’s designated “pounder” to strike the “Keeping Pounding” drum signaling the fight is on.

With a talent-heavy-laden team roster including Pro-Bowlers Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, 2017’s Panthers are sure to make noise in quest of another Super Bowl run.

Charlotte Hornets  

Buzz City is back in Charlotte in a big way as the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets thrill Charlotte fans with their up-tempo game and family-friendly atmosphere in Uptown’s Spectrum Arena, known as the “Hive.”

Charlotte’s affection for pro-Bball stretches back to 1988 when the Hornets were one of four new teams brought into the league. The “original” Charlotte Hornets were incredibly popular in the QC, leading the league in attendance, especially in the early 90’s when fan favorites like Alonzo Mourning and the diminutive Muggsy Bogues led to “Bugs” to their first playoff appearance in 1992.

When the team left for New Orleans in 2002, Charlotte was immediately awarded an expansion franchise by the NBA and only two years later the city’s new team, the Charlotte Bobcats were playing Uptown in what is today known as the Spectrum Center.

After minority owner and NBA legend, Michael Jordan, took control of the team in their sixth season it wouldn’t be long before he brought back the rights, history and team name to the Hornets. Fans went wild especially after seeing the newly designed logo, color scheme and uniforms.

The Hornets can be credited with bringing a unique and lively buzz to Uptown, creating an exciting entertainment option for visitors and “homers” alike. Pre-game warmups are almost as fun as the game as celeb-spotting in the crowd and catching the dance routines of the Honey Bees and mascot Hugo’s (the Hornet) make coming early a must. Fans love walking to the game after dinner on the town or checking out Uptown’s club-scene after an exciting game.

Charlotte Knights

Dreams of professional baseball in Uptown Charlotte were fulfilled on a most spectacular stage when the Charlotte Knights, the AAA Chicago White Sox affiliate, took the field at the brand-new BB&T Ballpark in the spring of 2014.

Named “Best Ball Park in Minor League Baseball” by Baseball America, BB&T Ballpark has quickly become the place to be for a great evening out during the warm Charlotte summer evenings, with the Knights leading the league in attendance since the park’s opening.

Upholding a tradition of pro-baseball in Charlotte that stretches all the way back to the turn of the 20th century and the 1901 Carolina Hornets (yes- back then the Hornets were a baseball team) the Knights today are the fifth incarnation of a MLB affiliate. Over the years, the team has been affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles (1976-1988), Chicago Cubs (1989-1992), Cleveland Indians (1993-1994), Florida Marlins (1995-1998), and the Chicago White Sox (1999-present).

After playing for years across the state border in Ft. Mill, SC, the team’s relocation Uptown brings a new generation of fans and supporters to the park with all manner of fun promotions, giveaways, fireworks and special appearances. Fans love the NC Local Craft Beer Garden with selections of hometown favorites from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, NoDa Brewing Company, D9 Brewing Company, Triple C Brewing Company, Birdsong Brewing Company, and the Unknown Brewing Company all on tap.

Charlotte Checkers

Many may be surprised to learn that the “northern” sport of ice hockey enjoys a history in Charlotte that extends back more than 60 years.

After experiencing a devastating fire to their home rink in 1956, the Eastern Hockey League’s Baltimore Clippers had to quickly find a new venue to host their final five games. Enter the Charlotte (now Bojangles’) Coliseum where the Clippers gladly skated into town – and never left.

So popular was hockey to the local fans that the Clippers moved to Charlotte and were rechristened the Checkers in 1959. The team continued to play in the EHL through 1973 and then in the newly- formed Southern Hockey League until ultimately folding in 1977.

Pro hockey returned in 1992 with the ECHL awarding a franchise to Charlotte, affiliating the reborn Checkers with the NHL’s Boston Bruins. The team won their first championship after only three years in the league lighting an enthusiastic fire for hockey in Charlotte that continues to burn.

The Checkers’ affiliated with the NHL in 2010 becoming a farm team for the cross-state parent, Carolina Hurricanes and after playing Uptown for years, moved back to the renovated Bojangles’ Coliseum for the 2015/16 season.

With so many northern and international transplants in Charlotte, the team’s international roster – they have players from Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czechoslovakia and the U.S. – attracts a diverse crowd who thrills at this ultra-fast game. Kids especially love Chubby – the team’s mascot who “dances” on ice at the drop of a puck. 

NASCAR 

Make no mistake, Charlotte is home to NASCAR. With more than 90 percent of the sport’s race teams located in the region and the NASCAR Hall of Fame situated in the heart of Uptown, the QC is the spot where all roads NASCAR lead to.

Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the finest tracks in the sport and home to the annual Coca-Cola 600, Memorial Day’s All-Star Race and the Bank of America 500. Built in 1959, the 1.5-mile quad oval is NASCAR’s unofficial home track that holds as many as 134,000 fans come race day.

The sport’s economic impact on the Charlotte community is estimated at more than $5 billion annually according to the Charlotte Regional Partnership. The sport’s cultural footprint is seen in everything from the annual Speed Street Festival Uptown to the NASCAR Hall Of Fame the sport’s local reach is enormous influencing curriculum at CPCC and several area trade schools.

Some of the Charlotte-area’s most popular teams include:

  • Hendrick Motorsports – This Concord-based team is only a mile from Charlotte Motor Speedway and is home to NASCAR Sprint drivers Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliot.
  • Team Penske – Team Penske celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and enjoys a significant leadership role within the sport. Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney lead the team of NASCAR drivers for this Mooresville-based team.
  • Stewart-Hass Racing – Co-owned by legendary racer Tony Stewart and industrial tool titan, Gene Hass, this Kannapolis-based team features Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick.

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