On August 3, 1996, the Panthers defeated the Chicago Bears in their shiny new stadium. Here's an article about it along with photos I added.
STADIUM'S OPENING NIGHT NOISY, RAINY, BREATHTAKINGReporter: By RON GREEN Jr., Staff Writer
August 4, 1996
Sights and sounds from opening night at Ericsson Stadium:
MOST ENCOURAGING SIGN: An hour before kickoff, there was a line in front of the PSL Information' window inside Ericsson Stadium.
'Panthers fans dropped off near Ericsson Stadium make tracks to get to the game at kickoff time. Charlotte city buses had mechanical problems and delays that made hundres of fans late.'
T. Ortega Gaines/Staff
SIGN OF THE TIMES: The longest line inside the stadium Saturday night was in front of an automatic teller machine.
MOST EMBARRASSING OVERSIGHT: Sports marketing maven Max Muhleman, the man who helped create the permanent seat license, showed up at Ericsson Stadium Saturday night without a ticket. Muhleman had to make an emergency call to Panthers public relations director Charlie Dayton to secure a press credential for the game.
GROWTH MARKS: In the stands at Ericsson Stadium, one fan was wearing a Charlotte Hornets T-shirt. Another fan nearby was using a Charlotte Motor Speedway seat cushion. Not bad for a sleepy little southern town.
'The Chicago Bears work out on the turf inside Ericsson Stadium late Friday afternoon, in preparation of tomorrow's matchup against the Carolina Panthers.'
WORST AIM: None of the four Green Beret parachutists hit the 50-yard-line bull's-eye Saturday night. But that's why they have exhibitions.
COOLEST SOUND: The noise in Ericsson Stadium. In empty hallways under the stadium, noise echoed from above. In the concourses, there was an excited chatter. An hour before kickoff, the sound of trumpets blaring the NFL fanfare rang through the stadium.
'Chicago Bears quarterback Steve Stenstorm (18) gets hauled in by Carolina linebacker Darion Conner (56) Saturday night during the Panthers' 30-12 victory at Ericsson Stadium.'
MOMENT TO REMEMBER: The first kickoff at 7:35 p.m. with enough flashbulbs popping to light Gastonia. Well, maybe not Gastonia but certainly enough to light Waxhaw.
BEST FAN DANCE: Early in the fourth quarter, fans broke into the Macarena. They may do it better at South Beach but they don't have any more fun.
FIRST DISAPPOINTMENT: Kickoff arrived and thousands of fans still had not taken their seats.
'The Chicago Bears take the field in Ericsson Stadium just before 7 p.m. for their pre-season game against the Carolina Panthers.'
SECOND DISAPPOINTMENT: Many of the empty seats at kickoff stayed empty. There were more than 7,000 no-shows. Were that many people really at the beach?
THIRD DISAPPOINTMENT: The first fan wave began at 7:46 p.m. It was confined to the lower deck.
DUELING LIGHT SHOWS: The Panthers put on a spectacular halftime fireworks show while Mother Nature put on one of her own with lightning flickering behind the bombardier's work.
'A sold-out house at Ericsson Stadium Saturday night for the first home game against the Chicago Bears.'
COOLEST ACCESSORY: In the back of owner Jerry Richardson's private box are two smaller versions of the panthers that guard the gates to the stadium. They may not work in your living room at home, but they go great in your own football stadium.
PUT AN ASTERISK BESIDE THAT RECORD: Deep snapper Mark Rodenhauser never had a bad snap in high school, college or professionally, but it happened on an extra-point attempt Saturday. That's why they play exhibitions.
WORST COMMERCIAL BREAK: Television was away for a commercial when the Panthers' first game in Ericsson Stadium kicked off. Too bad NBC wasn't doing the game. They could have tape-delayed the kickoff, done a 12-minute feature on Kerri Strug and acted like the kickoff was happening live at 10:45 p.m.
'Susan Burns of Greenville, S.C., walks around Ericsson Stadium late Friday afternoon in Charlotte. The Panthers will play their first home game here tomorrow night against the Chicago Bears.'
FIRST STAR TO BE BORN IN ERICSSON STADIUM: Second-year running back Dino Philyaw electrified the damp crowd during the second half with a 44-yard touchdown run, building on an already impressive performance.
UH, JERRY, ABOUT THAT DOME . . . : At 9:27 p.m., the first official raindrops began falling on Ericsson Stadium.
'Carolina Panthers running back Dino Philyaw (32) runs past Chicago Bears corner back James Burton (35) during exhibition game action against the Chicago Bears at Ericsson Stadium. Philyaw rushed for 84 yards and one touchdown as the Panthers beat the Bears 30-12.'
GROW THE GOATEE AGAIN: Quarterback Kerry Collins didn't exactly light up the sky. Collins, who shaved off his goatee this week, wasn't sharp in the first half and twice threw passes that Chicago defenders could have turned into touchdowns had they not dropped easy interceptions.
COOLEST BIG-SCREEN SHOT: An aerial view from outside Ericsson Stadium showing the big facility glowing with the uptown skyline as a backdrop.