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The Carolina Panthers Unbelievable Season Spark A New Pride In Charlotte, NC


A few days after the Carolina Panthers won the NFC Championship in Charlotte and almost a week from the franchise's second Super Bowl, the city of Charlotte is still buzzing. Charlotte, NC has been a place heard of by many, overlooked by others and a place where thousands of migrators now call home. Prior to the 2015-2016 NFL season, the city was already positioned for a bright future, but no one expected the home football team would give the city a well needed extra spark.

In 2010, the Carolina Panthers ended the regular season with a 2-14 record. Looking back, being the worst team in the league was a blessing in disguise. As the city of Charlotte continued to expand, the pride of the Carolinas (North & South) was at an all time low. The famous NASCAR city was experiencing a negative shift in its annual race attendees. Charlotte's NBA team purchased by the great Michael Jordan in 2009 was also struggling. The Hornets (formerly Bobcats) ended their 2011-2012 season with a 7-59 record. For many Americans cities, especially smaller environments, sports are a huge part of carrying a city's culture and pride. Charlotte at the time seemed to be lacking both; a sense of unique pride & culture as well as good professional sports teams.

As for the Panthers, their blessing in disguise came when the team qualified to draft the #1 pick in 2011, Cam Newton. Twenty-two year old Newton was the league's hyped Heisman Trophy recipient, scouted by many. Drafting a great athlete with a history of winning and lots of potential, what does a losing team like the Carolina Panthers do with him? Make him a franchise player and build a team that fits his talents piece by piece. Firing longtime coach John Fox and hiring Ron Rivera, was the first step of many. Since 2011, the Carolina Panthers staff, team and even the stadium has almost been revamped completely.

Although it was a slow start for the Cam Newton and the Panthers, the Carolina community ecstatically welcomed him with open arms claiming victory would soon come. After the Panthers ended their 2013 season with a 12-4 record, Carolinians were comfortable with considering themselves "Panther fans" again. Fast forward to January 2016 with an unforgettable 15-1 record and the playoffs behind them, Newton and many of his teammates look forward to playing in their first Super Bowl February 7th in Santa Clara, California. Numerous Panther fans are planning to pack their bags and support the team across the country.

If you're a resident of Charlotte, NC or have visited the city in the last six to ten years, you can attest to the gradual growth of the city in many aspects. Within the last two years the city's population has peaked over 809,000 people. For an emerging southern city, Charlotte's population fits the city's current infrastructure. The city has made strides in improving its infrastructure in order to bring bigger and better opportunities. For a city once only known as the headquarters for large banking companies such as Bank of America, Charlotte has added over 1600 new jobs and plans on continuing to improve its job market. If you fly often on the east coast, you've probably had a layover in Charlotte because it serves as a large American Airline (US Airways) hub.

Over the decade, Charlotte has hosted the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) tournament growing a larger attendee rate annually. The CIAA has now moved its headquarters to Charlotte, where its tournament weekend has contributed $325million to the city's economy. Another large sports attraction and economic revenue to the city is "The Belk Bowl" and since 2010 the Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship. Both December held games attracts thousands of attendees each year. In 2014 the "Queen City" adopted a new nickname "Buzz City" after reacquiring the NBA Hornets name back to Charlotte. Buzz City looks forward to hosting the NBA All-Star Weekend in 2017.

The Panther's success have attributed to Charlotte's economy as well. The home games attracts guest from all parts of North and South Carolina in addition to opposing team's support. The Panther's have sold out over 130 home games consecutively. The team's regular season success granted them home field advantage in the NFL Playoffs, where Charlotte hosted the first NFC Championship.

If no other year, this past year true pride was restored in all of the Carolinas. The display of Panther pride in Charlotte is like never before. From blue building tops, Panther displays all around, $3.99 sweet victory dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme, tailgating on game days, to sold out Jerseys in the mall, Charlotte has never been quite like this before. The Carolina Panthers team that played in Super Bowl XXXVIII (more known for Janet Jackson's nip-slip incident) thirteen years ago is a much different team.

The Panthers have created a team that is relatable to their citizens and with the help of social media, sports fans in general. The Carolina Panthers have become one football's most entertaining teams to watch this year.The team's faculty has improved the game experience which has allowed them to sell out game after game. Having Sunday and Monday Night Football opportunities has shined light on Charlotte's beautiful skyline and having a 6'5 quarterback whose nickname is Superman, loves to dance and gives every touchdown ball to a kid in the stands can most definitely give a face to the city's franchise.

If the Carolina Panthers win Super Bowl 50, not only will the Panthers finally prove that they are a quality team worth the respect of their doubters, but will also show that there's actually great happening in the "boring" city of Charlotte. Unlike 13 years ago, Charlotte now is much larger, fresher, and current city with potential for greater opportunities such as hosting the Super Bowl one year. The Panthers have helped put Charlotte on the map for sure as a rapid growing new major city in the US. People are embracing the city and proud to call it their home. The team has really brought the best out of its people and shown as a community what it really means to "keep pounding."

(Photo: Patrick Schneider Photography)

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