On October 26, 1993, NFL owners unanimously selected Carolina as the 29th NFL franchise and the first expansion team since 1976. Fireworks exploded over uptown Charlotte as jubilant fans gathered to celebrate the news. "This is a dream come true for me and my partners and for the 10 million people in the Carolinas," said Carolina Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson, who became just the second former player to own an NFL team along with George Halas of the Chicago Bears.
The "dream" began on July 16, 1987 when Richardson met in Charlotte with a group of interested parties to discuss the feasibility of entering the multi-city competition for two NFL expansion franchises. On December 15, Richardson officially announced an NFL franchise bid for the Carolinas.
One of the first orders of business was to choose a stadium site. Locations in North and South Carolina were considered. On December 15, 1989, Richardson Sports selected a site in uptown Charlotte as the future home of a privately financed NFL stadium that would seat more than 70,000 fans.
Across the Carolinas, support for an NFL expansion team poured in at an unprecedented rate. U.S. Sens. Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Ernest Hollings of South Carolina lobbied NFL owners on the Carolinas behalf. Likewise, North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin and South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell formed a blue-ribbon committee of leading citizens in both states. Fans demonstrated their enthusiasm by selling out preseason games in Raleigh, NC in 1989, Chapel Hill, NC in 1990 and Columbia, SC in 1991.
At the League owners meeting on March 18, 1992, the NFL reduced the list of expansion candidate cities from eleven to seven with the Carolinas making the cut. Two months later, the NFL narrowed the list of expansion hopefuls to five communities – Baltimore, St. Louis, Memphis, Jacksonville and the Carolinas.
However, on October 20, 1992, NFL owners decided to delay the expansion vote until the fall of 1993 because of a labor dispute between the League and the players. Fortunately, on January 6, 1993, the League and the players approved a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. On March 23, 1993, the expansion race officially resumed.
On June 3, Richardson Sports revealed its impressive plan to privately finance a 72,300-seat stadium from the sale of Permanent Seat Licenses, club seats and luxury boxes, beginning on July 1. A remarkable 15,000 pieces of mail from first-day orders were collected. By the end of the first day, all 8,314 club seats sold out and all 104 luxury suites were reserved and ultimately leased. First-day PSL orders totaled 41,632.
Finally, on October 26, 1993, NFL owners unanimously selected Carolina as the 29th NFL franchise.