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Rock Hill leaders waiting for Panthers response after new funding offer, sources tell WCNC Charlotte

On Monday night, Rock Hill’s city council voted in support of York County’s plan to offer the Panthers a new way to pay for public infrastructure on the site.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Rock Hill is taking steps to save the Carolina Panthers training facility project. Tepper Sports and Entertainment paused construction on the site following funding disagreements with the city of Rock Hill, despite already investing $170 million. 

On Monday night, Rock Hill’s city council voted in support of York County’s plan to offer the Panthers a new way to pay for public infrastructure on the site.

Rock Hill joined York County in making the Panthers a new offer – if Tepper Sports and Entertainment pays for public infrastructure like streets and sidewalks, they would get that money back in taxes the organization wouldn’t have to pay for years.

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This is in addition to other incentives, including more than $100 million in tax breaks approved by the state early in the project.

Now that the city has passed a resolution supporting the county’s offer, sources told WCNC Charlotte that Rock Hill leaders are waiting for the Panthers to respond.

“It's become more and more common for team owners to demand an awful lot of public money, whether it's direct money for construction, whether it's tax breaks, whether it's infrastructure," said Neil deMaus, who co-authored the book Field of Schemes and has reported on sports and stadium arena deals for more than 20 years. 

DeMaus said the Panthers project in Rock Hill is unique because it has turned into such a large development project despite not being a stadium.

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“It would be very rare for a team owner to walk away from a project after they've already sunk a lot of money into it," deMaus said. "Usually, they're going to want to try and work out some kind of deal."

Tepper Sports and Entertainment released an initial statement when it first announced it was pausing the project, saying “our partners have been unable to contribute to the agreed upon investment.” The organization has been silent on the issue since and did not comment despite multiple requests submitted by WCNC Charlotte.

The Panthers website says public infrastructure on the site would include 13,000 feet of new streets, 2,600 parking spaces, in addition to sidewalks and trails.

Friday, York County Government Public Information Officer Greg Suskin shared the following statement with WCNC Charlotte: 

"York County Council recently approved a resolution outlining a new financial plan to restart construction at the Carolina Panthers’ headquarters and practice center in Rock Hill.  This week the City of Rock Hill gave unanimous support to that plan.  For more than two years a great deal of work has gone into this project. That’s an understatement.   We’ve watched buildings rise from the dirt, an interstate overpass take shape, and hundreds of people pouring their energy and their passion into this monumental effort.  

York County stands with our Rock Hill partners in the desire to make this happen for our community.  We have consistently met with the Panthers, and have taken the steps they’ve requested to keep the development on track.  

 Along with the public, we await word from GT Real Estate and Mr. Tepper as to the future of construction there, including acceptance of the County’s proposed financial plan.   It’s our hope that York County, the City of Rock Hill and the Carolina Panthers can remain partners, press forward, and work together to make this project a reality for our community."

Contact Indira Eskieva at ieskieva@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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