CHARLOTTE - When the Democratic National Convention takes center stage in and around Bank of America Stadium, the Carolina Panthers will take their show on the road.
The team announced Thursday that it will prepare for its regular season opener at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. The facility is located an hour south of Raymond James Stadium, where the Panthers will kick off the 2012 season Sept. 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte on Sept. 3-6, with President Barack Obama expected to deliver a speech at Bank of America Stadium on the final day of the convention.
The Panthers had requested a road game to open the season in light of the convention, which is expected to draw upwards of 40,000 visitors.
"We researched places on the West Coast, Midwest and East Coast in anticipation of the 2012 schedule release," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "After the opener at Tampa Bay was announced, we scouted a few places in the Tampa area, and IMG made the most sense. The facility offers the privacy and infrastructure that we need to prepare for the season opener."
Quarterback Cam Newton is among the players already quite familiar with the facility. He trained at the IMG Madden Football Academy before and after the Panthers selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
"IMG is a great venue and it will offer us everything we need in our preparation for Tampa Bay," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "We could have stayed here in Charlotte, but we see this as a great opportunity to get away, continue to bond as a team and focus on the opener."
IMG Academies encompasses more than 400 acres and features training facilities for football, basketball, baseball and several other sports. IMG attracts more than 12,000 athletes from about 80 countries each year.