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 BB&T Ballpark opened and AAA Chicago White Sox affiliate the Charlotte Knights moved from Fort Mill to Uptown. Dubbed the “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. 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, which is connected to the Charlotte Convention Center. The Hall even has its own mascot, Champ the Cheetah, and regularly has visits from NASCAR Hall of Famers and current drivers alike. Plus, when you visit Charlotte for a meeting, trade show or convention, simply show your badge at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Box Office to enjoy a $10 multiday ticket to explore the Hall’s riveting simulators, experiences and artifacts.
In Bojangles’ Coliseum, you’ll find the Charlotte Checkers, the city’s mid-level professional ice hockey league. Affiliated with the American Hockey League (AHL), the Checkers act as the farm team for Raleigh’s Carolina Hurricanes. Inside the coliseum is one unbeatable fan amenity: The Red Line Club, known for its piping-hot signature chili and entryway where guests can root on the players as they make their way from the locker room to the ice. And kids especially love Chubby, the team’s mascot, who “dances” on the ice at the drop of a puck.
Based southeast of Charlotte, in a town called Matthews, the city’s soccer team, Charlotte Independence, has an avid following. The team, which plays in United Soccer League, is affiliated with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids. All home games are played at the Sportsplex at Matthews, which features 12 full-sized soccer fields and a stadium with 2,000-plus seats. Captain James Jack, a major figure in Charlotte history, rides astride a horse in the team’s logo.
The city welcomed its Major League Lacrosse team (MLL), the Charlotte Hounds, in 2012. Fronted by Blue the Plott Hound, the team plays all of its home games in American Legion Memorial Stadium, which is in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood. The parking lot of the stadium opens early so fans can tailgate before the game.