The Panthers are now charging for what used to be their biggest free event of the year. And in the process, they’ve opened the door to any opposing scouts who wanted to swing by.
The Panthers have confirmed they’re selling tickets to this year’s Aug. 4 Fan Fest practice, and the $5 per ticket will be donated to the team’s charitable arm.
“Due to increased demand and precautions for fan safety, all patrons must have a ticket to attend the event,” Panthers director of communications Steven Drummond said. “Admission will be $5 for a reserved ticket. Proceeds from Fan Fest will benefit Carolina Panthers Charities and will support grant funding awards to non-profit organizations that serve communities in the two-state region.”
The team was overwhelmed two years ago, when more than 55,000 fans showed up for the event after they moved it to a Friday night and had a huge walk-up crowd. But it was a little too crowded, and they chose to issue free tickets last year. Attendance was announced at over 40,000, though rains kept the crowd down as much as anything.
Their regular camp practices at Wofford College in Spartanburg are still free and open to the public.
Other teams have limited camp practices open to the public (the Colts will have just two). The Seahawks don’t charge for attendance, but make fans pay to be shuttled to the team facility from an offsite parking lot.
The Panthers are not the first team to charge, as Washington did in 2000 upon moving their camp to Ashburn, Va. The Vikings considered it a few years later, but owner Ziggy Wilf pulled the plug on the idea after some negative reaction.
Part of the reason more teams don’t bother is a league rule that allows opposing scouts into any event a team charges fans to attend. Of course, that rule might not be as pertinent today as it was in the pre-social media days of 2000, when the Cowboys sent a scout to check on their division rivals and happily bought a ticket to take notes.
And while many will howl about charging for anything that used to be free, the charitable donation will offset some of the hard feelings. The bigger issue is purely one of optics, as well the clear look at their practice they’re giving to the Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers, or anyone else who might be interested.