Don’t look now, but the Carolina Panthers could be on the move in the coming years.
Panthers owner David Tepper wants a new stadium, and he made it clear in June 2021 that he doesn’t intend to buy it. He wants the “community” to want it, a kind way of saying he wants them to pay for it. Anyone who has been around sports long enough knows that this is the type of battle that often results in relocation.
If Tepper did move the Panthers, which cities make sense as the best options? When considering location, geographical fits, and areas that don’t currently have an NFL team (sorry, Houston fans who want to see another team besides the Texans), the best candidates rank as follows:
5. Orlando, Florida
The NFL already has three teams in Florida, so adding a fourth when there are other, untapped markets may not be worth it. Orlando, however, is a booming city that has rallied around the UCF Knights in recent years. When the AAF played its lone season in 2019, the Apollos were named honorary champions.
Florida’s role as a state without income tax has always appealed to players, and it may help their case for an NFL team to a certain point. But unless the Jaguars move in the coming years, Florida might be a long-shot to receive another NFL franchise.
4. St. Louis
The Rams left St. Louis for Los Angeles after the 2015 season, and the Gateway to the West is thirsting for a new NFL franchise. Fans flooded The Dome at America’s Center to support the XFL’s BattleHawks in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic prematurely ended the league’s season.
Although it makes more sense for the Panthers to remain in the south, don’t rule out St. Louis as a dark horse location. The BattleHawks led the XFL in attendance, clear proof that the local fans desperately want a football team back in the area.
3. San Antonio
If or when the NFL eventually expands, fans should expect San Antonio to be in the running. But if the Panthers are open to moving, why shouldn’t the Alamo City be in the running?
Texas is an excellent geographical location for the NFC South, and San Antonio has hosted NFL games before. The Saints played three games at the Alamodome in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. If the Panthers play any games at the Alamodome, they should hope for a better showing than the Saints, who lost two of those three outings.
2. Oklahoma City/Tulsa, Oklahoma
We listed Oklahoma City and Tulsa here, so let us explain. If the Panthers believe that Tulsa is a better fit than Oklahoma City, they can set up there and still call themselves the Oklahoma or Oklahoma City Panthers.
If you think that’s unrealistic, think about the New York Giants and Jets. They play in East Rutherford, New Jersey, but still brand themselves as New York teams. The Oklahoma area, much like San Antonio, is one that should be in play if the NFL eventually considers expanding to 33 or 34 teams.
1. South Carolina
Speaking of the Giants and Jets, remember their history for a second. Both played in New York — the Giants usually played at Yankee Stadium and the Jets at Shea Stadium — throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Eventually, the Giants moved to New Jersey in 1976 and spent the next three decades playing at Giants Stadium. The Jets joined them in 1984, and they’ve shared a stadium since then.
If the Panthers moved to South Carolina, they could essentially do the same thing. The name wouldn’t have to change, and the team is already building a practice facility in Rock Hill, which is 28 miles south of Charlotte.
If North Carolina is unwilling to build a new stadium, the Panthers could try their hand at South Carolina. That sounds like a far better alternative than moving across the country to San Antonio or St. Louis.