David Tepper returned to his home city of Pittsburgh on Thursday, for his second game since he became the owner of the Carolina Panthers in July.
After visiting his new building at Carnegie Mellon University, the Tepper Quadrangle, as well as his old high school, Peabody (now the Barack Obama Academy), Tepper spoke with reporters on the sideline before Thursday night’s Panthers game against the Steelers.
Tepper was closely involved in the design and construction of the Tepper Quad, and financed a third of the $201 million project. He has also been putting into place plans for new Carolina Panthers facilities.
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“Let me just say this, I will be very surprised if we aren’t playing indoors before the end of next summer, for practice somehow or another,“ said Tepper coyly, adding that he wasn’t going to reveal a location of any potential facility just yet.
A plan for a multi-use, covered practice facility has been one of Tepper’s top priorities since becoming the owner of the team. Tepper might consider such a facility in the Rock Hill area, to continue to incorporate both Carolinas in his long-term infrastructural plan for the organization.
Tepper attended a Panthers “Roaring Riot” fan base tailgate and toured his old neighborhood of East Liberty on Thursday, and met with his old co-workers in the Steelers organization.
Tepper was a minority shareholder in the Steelers’ organization from 2009 until his $2.25 billion cash-purchase of the Panthers this year required him to sell his stake.
While his last visit to his old organization in the preseason was joyous, this visit was more somber for Tepper.
He and the Panthers visited the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, which was the site of a tragic mass-shooting hate-crime that left 11 people dead in late October.
Tepper grew up just a few miles from Tree of Life, and knew people who attended the synagogue personally, including, he said, two of the victims. Cecil and David Rosenthal were brothers of former Steelers community relations director Michele Rosenthal. Many members of the organization attended the viewing, a spokesman for the Steelers confirmed.
“That was something,” said Tepper of visiting the synagogue. He grew emotional. “There are a lot of connections. The Steelers used to have a public-relations person whose two brothers, two mentally challenged brothers in their 50s. They called them ‘The Boys.’
“I actually found out this morning...They used to greet everybody at the doors (of the synagogue). And I think one of the brothers might have died when he was saying ‘Hello’ to the shooter. It’s pretty upsetting. ...There was another guy, a doctor that my brother-in-law was (with) in residency in the medical school down here.
“I actually lived, I had a girlfriend for four years who lived a block away from that synagogue. I lived three blocks away when I went to grad school (at Carnegie Mellon). One of my best friends got married in that synagogue. ...That was something.”
Tepper and the Panthers left flowers at the site.
“With these flowers, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh,” the team tweeted on Thursday afternoon.
Quarterback Cam Newton wore cleats that honored the victims and the synagogue as he warmed up before the game. They were painted with a Star of David and the words “hatred cannot weaken a city of steel.”
Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue