Billionaire Panthers owner won't move facility to South Carolina without $120 million in tax breaks

As part of an effort to include South Carolina in the regionally named Carolina Panthers, owner David Tepper has a plan to move the team’s facility to Rock Hill, S.C.

But some South Carolina legislators aren’t willing to give Tepper whatever he wants to get the team into the state.

‘We’d like to be there. Hopefully they help us out’

Via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer, Tepper had a message for lawmakers in South Carolina who are considering a package that will provide $120 million in tax breaks for the practice complex.

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper wants a tax-break package from South Carolina legislators, or he'll keep the team's practice facility in Charlotte. (AP)
Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper wants a tax-break package from South Carolina legislators, or he'll keep the team's practice facility in Charlotte. (AP)

“We’d like to be there. Hopefully they help us out there,” Tepper said. “But I could be with a [practice] bubble and a cafeteria in Charlotte, too. So it’s up to them.”

Tepper’s plan doesn’t just include relocating the Panthers’ day-to-day on- and off-field business to Rock Hill, which is roughly 30 miles south of Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte; it also includes an orthopedic sports medicine facility and a hotel with at least 150 rooms and conference spaces.

The team is eyeing a 200-acre parcel, and would like to begin construction by the end of this year, with the facility open in early 2022.

“There’s a lot of development we’ll be doing. Hopefully at some point we get a [Major League Soccer] team and we do a lot of development with that up here,” Tepper said. “This would be great, if we could do that development down there.”

Freshman legislator has pushed back

State Sen. Dick Harpootlian (D-Richmond), a freshman senator, blocked the incentives bill in March in an effort to force the governor and state Commerce Department to release its projections about the economic impact the deal will have for South Carolina.

Harpootlian hired an independent economist to question the in-house figures, though he ultimately withdrew his objection to the package. However, he still urged colleagues not to vote for it.

“I’ve come to the troubling conclusion that the Panthers’ proposal is precisely as ill-defined and unvetted as has been represented to us and that it rests on a series of flawed assumptions,” Harpootlian said Tuesday in a speech on the floor of the state legislature.

Some South Carolina lawmakers have wondered why they should agree to tax breaks for a project that will only benefit one region of the state, while still others have wondered aloud why Tepper, who is worth an estimated $11 billion, should get any kind of financial benefit.

“It’s going to cost us a lot of money to go down to South Carolina,” Tepper said. “We’re going to have to put out real money to go down there. So it’s not like we get that money from South Carolina, and that’s it. There’s a lot of money in a facility that we have to invest.

“They’ll have to make a decision whether they want it or not ... I’ll stay in Charlotte. I could stay home.”

Tepper could likely point to job creation - the sports medicine facility would employ about 200 people, plus more for the hotel - as well as tourism. The Panthers had nearly 100,000 fans attend training camp practices in 2017.

Asked Wednesday whether he was surprised that the bill had gotten the pushback it has, the 61-year-old said, “It’s politics. I’m old. I’ve seen it before. I’m not surprised.

“But listen. We’d like to go there. Hopefully we can. And I said the first day when I was in the building, I’d like for this to be a two-state team. That’s a part of that. I do believe that most of the people in South Carolina want this, and I think it will get done.”

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