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David Tepper: Panthers won't have a 'back and forth' in public with Rock Hill

David Tepper said he would respect the city of Rock Hill's request to avoid a public back and forth about the Panthers' training facility contract dispute.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper refused to answer questions about the team's training facility in Rock Hill Wednesday, saying he stood by his previous statements and wanted to honor the city's request to avoid a public back and forth. 

"We released a statement already," Tepper said. "We will respect the city's request not to have a back and forth in public about it. They requested it, we're going to respect it."

It was announced on April 20 that Tepper's real estate company was terminating the agreement surrounding the York County training facility

Tepper said he still wants to sit down with Rock Hill leaders and talk, but did not say if he’s committed to keeping the Carolina Panthers project in Rock Hill. Instead, the NFL team owner said he’ll support York County in other ways.

“No matter what they say about me, we will be there for the people of Rock Hill, supporting the community in different fashions," Tepper said. "In charity and I think we’ll probably be in York County for Keep Pounding day."

In a statement, GT Real Estate Holdings explained the decision, saying the city failed to issue the bonds necessary to provide funding for the project. The statement said in part, "we are prepared to sit down with the city and other interested parties to discuss the significant challenges ahead.

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Tepper refused to answer any further questions about the Rock Hill training facility, citing his decision to respect the city's request, but he did indicate the team wants to sit down with the city again. 

The decision to terminate the contract for the multimillion-dollar project generated mixed reviews from people. Teresa Drakeford is a Panthers fan and said she wanted the team to have a new practice facility.

"How can you get your team fan base to believe that the organization is going to keep forward?" Drakeford said. "It’s like we’re going backwards to me – even though I still support the team – I still feel like we’re not moving forward like other professional football organizations.” 

Others said the potential loss of this project is not a loss for Rock Hill.

“The [City of Rock Hill] is not going to falter just because they don’t have their headquarters here," Angelina Kakouris said. "They were doing just fine before the headquarters were going to come here, they’ll do just fine afterwards."

Tepper also shot down any speculation the team could leave Charlotte, saying the Queen City is the "most logical" place for home games. 

"This is the best place for the Panthers, where the stadium is right now," Tepper said. "The most logical place for the Carolina Panthers to be is in Charlotte."

As for a new stadium, that's to be determined. Tepper, who has made it clear he'd like to build a new one, said a feasibility study is being wrapped up to determine how much longer Bank of America Stadium can operate as it is. He said that study should be done in a few months. 

Tepper elaborated, saying if the stadium is reconfigured or a new one is built, he'd like to have a "supporters section," similar to the Charlotte FC setup. 

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The news conference with Tepper came just one day before the NFL Draft begins. On Tuesday, general manager Scott Fitterer said the team informed Sam Darnold they plan to add another quarterback soon. Tepper sidestepped a question about the team's pursuit of Deshaun Watson, who was traded to the Cleveland Browns. 

"I'm not going to talk about players on other teams for various reasons," Tepper said. 

It's unclear if the Panthers, who hold the No. 6 pick, will take a quarterback with that draft slot or trade back in the draft. 

“I think there is a talent level on a couple of them this year that can help us, whether that is at six or moving around,” Fitterer said. “If we had to pick one at six I would feel comfortable with one of them, or actually a couple of them, at six.”

The team could also trade for a veteran quarterback to compete with Darnold for the starting role, but Fitterer said that would most likely be a post-draft move. Tepper said he felt the team has a "very good quarterback" in Darnold. 

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

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