Get to Know Charlotte's Pro Sports
If you want to experience Charlotte’s sporty side, you’re in luck. The Queen City has seven major athletic offerings for you to enjoy. When you need your game-day fix, snag a ticket, check out the gift shop or simply scope out the digs of these local loves.
by Beth Castle
Created by former pro footballer Jerry Richardson, the Carolina Panthers have called Uptown Charlotte home since 1993. Since then, the team’s frequent and fabulous come-from-behind fourth quarter finishes have earned them the nickname the “Cardiac Cats,” and the team’s mantra, “Keep Pounding,” inspired by former Panther player and coach Sam Mills, has become a message of perseverance for Charlotteans. Each game day, fans inside Bank of America Stadium look on as mascot Sir Purr hands a mallet to a designated “pounder,” who then strikes the “Keeping Pounding” drum to signal the start of the game. The Panthers were sold to David Tepper in May of 2018 for an NFL-record $2.2 billion.
Charlotte’s affection for professional basketball stretches back to 1988 when the Charlotte Hornets were one of four new teams brought into the league. The “original” Hornets were incredibly popular in the Queen City, but in 2002, the team left for New Orleans and Charlotte became the home of the Bobcats. Not for long, though. After minority owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan took control of the team in their sixth season, he restored the Hornets name and hype for “Buzz City” skyrocketed. Find them in Spectrum Center, aka the Hive, with their mascot Hugo the Hornet.
Professional baseball came to Center City in spring 2014, when the newly constructed ballpark opened and the Charlotte Knights (AAA Chicago White Sox affiliate) moved from Fort Mill to Uptown. Dubbed the “Best Ball Park in Minor League Baseball” by Baseball America, Truist Field 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. In addition to fireworks and special appearances from mascot Homer the Dragon, fans love the NC Local Craft Beer Garden with drafts from favorite hometown breweries.
With more than 85 percent of NASCAR’s teams located in the region and Charlotte Motor Speedway in nearby Concord, Charlotte is racing country. Learn how the sport got started and see relics from famed drivers at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The Hall even has its own mascot, Champ the Cheetah, and regularly has visits from NASCAR Hall of Famers and current drivers alike.
Charlotte Checkers hockey at Bojangles Coliseum is affordable fun for everyone. Whether it’s family nights or $1 beer on Wednesdays, the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers has an exciting promotion for every game. Grab dinner at the Red Line Club restaurant and high five some of the NHL’s top prospects as they head toward the ice for a unique sports experience. Kids especially love Chubby, the team’s mascot, who dances on the ice at the drop of a puck. In 2019, the Charlotte Checkers clinched the first Calder Cup championship in team history.
David Tepper, who also owns the Carolina Panthers, was awarded the 30th Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise in 2019. The team is slated to start play in 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Uptown Charlotte. Charlotte FC’s crest includes a four-point Carolina blue crown representing the original four wards of the Queen City.
Owned by Queen City Soccer Club, Charlotte Independence plays in the United Soccer League (USL). Captain James Jack, a major figure in Charlotte history, rides astride a horse in the team’s logo. In 2021, the team will move to a new home stadium at American Legion Memorial Stadium in the Elizabeth neighborhood near Uptown Charlotte.
The city welcomed its Major League Lacrosse team (MLL), the Charlotte Hounds, in 2012. While the team is currently on hiatus, they have plans to return in 2021 under new ownership and to a new home stadium at American Legion Memorial Stadium.
Article originally written by Beth Castle. Updates by Kristen Moore.