The Carolina Panthers are just one win away from playing in the Super Bowl. The team will play host to the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, in the NFC championship.
It’s an exciting time for fans and Wofford College, the site of summer training camp.
“We know those people. They are friends. It’s like extended family, so we’re really excited for them,” said Wofford Athletic Director, Richard Johnson.
It’s a relationship more than 20 years in the making between the Carolina Panthers, Wofford College and the city of Spartanburg. They’ve hosted the team each summer since the panthers began playing in 1995 thanks to team owner Jerry Richardson’s strong ties to his alma mater.
“We’ve kind of arrived, if you will as a region. We’re not an expansion franchise anymore,” said Johnson.
That’s evidenced by their impressive campaign. The panthers are 16 and 1 so far. Sunday’s triumph over the Seahawks put them one win away from getting back to Super Bowl for the first time since the 2003 season. All they need is to beat Arizona, Sunday.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to win this weekend, and I say ‘we’ because we’re all part of it. We’re really pulling for them,” Johnson explained.
As the Carolina Panthers inch closer to the Super Bowl, Wofford College is already thinking, “what if?” What if they are able to clinch a Super Bowl win? How will that affect training camp and the City of Spartanburg as a whole?
“The last two years, we’ve had record crowds,” Johnson explained.
Nearly 80,000 people came out to watch training camp in 2015. It translates into an 8 million dollar economic impact on the city, according to the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. That’s a record breaking 60% growth over 2014 and a Super Bowl victory could mean even more.
“It’s great for the community; it’s great for us because we’re all kind of part of it. We have a stake in it,” said Johnson. “You know, we want traffic problems. We want fans coming and saying “we have to get there early because we want a good seat.”