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Panthers terminating Rock Hill project agreements

The ongoing troubles around the football training facility in South Carolina have been ongoing since March when construction was halted.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — The uncertainty concerning the Carolina Panthers Training Facility and Headquarters project in Rock Hill, South Carolina, got a bit clearer Tuesday when Panthers' owner David Tepper's GT Real Estate Holdings told WCNC Charlotte they would be terminating the agreement surrounding the project. 

The following statement was sent to WCNC Charlotte Tuesday morning:

On February 26, 2021, the City of Rock Hill became delinquent on their obligation to fund the public infrastructure. Despite our persistent efforts throughout 2021, the City of Rock Hill failed to issue the bonds or provide the funding for the public infrastructure for the project. 

On March 18, 2022, GTRE issued a default notice and the City did not cure its default within the prescribed 30-day cure period. It is unfortunate that some recently decided to conduct a misguided, destructive public relations campaign to obscure their failures.

We have sent notices to the City to formally terminate the previous agreements. Accordingly, we are prepared to sit down with the City and other interested parties to discuss the significant challenges ahead.”

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The project has now been on hold for more than a month, and despite receiving a new funding offer from both the City of Rock Hill and York County, Tepper did not respond to the controversy until now.

York County released the following statement after the announcement which read:

It is disheartening to learn today that the Carolina Panthers have terminated their original agreements with the City of Rock Hill.  However, York County remains optimistic that this project can still move forward. The Panthers have expressed a willingness to continue discussions with all parties involved and face the challenges ahead.  York County expresses that same willingness.

TIMELINE: Panthers' Rock Hill training facility 

The major construction site on 240 acres has sat idle for weeks, and hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. 

The project was first paused in early March. WCNC Charlotte later learned Rock Hill failed to secure $225 million in bonds to pay for roads, sidewalks and other public infrastructure on the site.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Rock Hill has yet to issue $225M in bonds for Panthers project

Two weeks later, York County and then Rock Hill passed resolutions saying if the Panthers paid for the public infrastructure, it would get the money back in tax credits.

“Whenever we issued the resolution, we thought we would hear something immediately, and it’s just been nothing,” York County Councilmember Brandon Guffey, who helped pass the alternative financing resolution, said. “I think resentment is growing daily, not just with the officials, but with the community itself.”

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The city of Rock Hill responded to the Tuesday announcement, saying,"We are disappointed with the current dispute and with the decision of the Panthers to halt the Rock Hill development, thus undermining the exhaustive efforts of the City of Rock Hill, State of South Carolina, York County, Rock Hill Schools, key landowners, and the entire region. It was and remains our intention to continue negotiating in good faith while protecting the interests of our taxpayers. In fact, in the past few weeks, we have attempted to meet with the Panthers on numerous occasions to no avail."

Rock Hill maintains it met all required obligations set under the agreements. 

"The City met all obligations required under the agreements," the city said in a statement. "The City did not commit to provide unlimited City backstop but instead agreed to use its best reasonable efforts to issue bonds to be repaid by the increase in the tax revenues generated from development of the site which protects the City’s taxpayers and the City’s favorable financial position. As set forth in the parties’ finance agreement, the City was not required – to pledge, use or contribute any City funds, revenues or assets to the repayment of the Bonds beyond the Panthers Fund Proceeds, Reserve Funds derived from proceeds of the Bonds, together with capitalized interest, if any, or [municipal improvement district (MID)] assessments imposed in accordance with the MID Governing Documents; and … the City’s reasonable best efforts to issue Bonds shall not be construed as an assurance or guarantee by the City that there will be a buyer for any of the Bonds."

Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys said the city "does not believe in addressing, through a public back-and-forth, its differences with another party."

Gettys said he is encouraged the Panthers may be willing to meet to discuss the process moving forward.

"From our standpoint, we are prepared to meet as early as today," Getty said in a statement. "Accordingly, this will be the last public statement from the City regarding the most recent misleading and erroneous statements from the Panthers."

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

The construction first broke ground in 2020. It was anticipated that the first phase would be completed in 2023, but even if the project were to resume, it seems unlikely the deadline would be met.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, after hearing the announcement, focused on touting jobs and capital investments.

"Today’s announcement by the Panthers is a disappointment, as we had hoped they would be a part of South Carolina’s record-breaking, booming economy," McMaster said in a statement Tuesday. "And our state government’s finances are in the strongest condition ever, with the largest budget surpluses, the largest rainy-day reserves, and the lowest debt in our history. South Carolina is winning, and we intend to keep winning. The best is yet to come!"

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Speaking Wednesday, McMaster said the state held up its end of the deal.

"Our part was done -- that was the interchange, which was needed in any event but it'll be getting there a little earlier than was planned, but that area of the state is growing. But the parties -- the city and the county and the Tepper organization -- seem to have differences that they could not reconcile and that's a disappointment."

McMaster previously addressed the paused facility at a news conference on April 12. McMaster said he's spoken to Tepper and says he hopes both parties can come to an agreement.

"The state has done its part and we would encourage everyone to resolve whatever differences and let's get moving," McMaster said. "We want the Panthers to do the right thing."

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

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

   

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