Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has had ongoing talks with both Carolinas regarding the future expansion of his organization.
And so far, South Carolina is making a strong and vocal push for the relocation and development of a new team headquarters and multi-use practice facility in the Rock Hill area.
But speaking Monday at the NFL’s annual league meetings in Phoenix, Tepper re-emphasized that any future projects for his franchise will impact both Carolinas.
“We’re a two-state team,” he said. “I view it as a whole region. I know that different people view it as ‘this place’ or ‘that place’. To me, it’s not. It’s the development of the whole region, trying to make something bigger and better through both states. And we’ll be involved in different ventures in both states for a long time.”
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and state legislators have offered incentives in recent weeks as they woo Tepper and the Panthers.
Tepper met with McMaster and other S.C. officials earlier this month, after which legislation was drafted that would make the Panthers’ 53-man roster eligible for tax breaks. The legislation, which will be debated this week, would also allow those who qualify for the incentives to avoid paying city taxes and business license fees.
McMaster, who spoke in Charlotte on Monday, said the construction of the practice facility in York County could have bi-state benefits, including the extension of Charlotte’s light-rail line to Rock Hill.
“I see this as the beginning of a beautiful relationship between our two states,” he said.
N.C. officials have expressed the desire for the Panthers’ facilities to stay put. Tepper said he has met with the state’s governor, Roy Cooper — the two went to a basketball game together — and made it clear that North Carolina continues to be included in his future development plans.
Tepper has also previously offered up the idea of team “fan fests” in cities on both sides of the state line. Additionally, the Panthers’ training camp contract with Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.., ends after this summer, so new locations in either state could be under consideration.
“When you look at the team, people should look at what economic development you can bring in to the whole region,” Tepper said. “If you put something some place, does it benefit the whole region in general?”
That would also mean continuing to also develop projects in Charlotte, including a continued push for an Major League Soccer team and stadium renovations.
Tepper indicated that renovations were a more likely solution to improving the stadium than moving it altogether — and with a greater economic impact to the city, particularly if it welcomed another sports franchise that made use of the facility.
And, as the Panthers consider a move to a different full-time practice facility, they must determine an efficient way to re-purpose the current practice fields that sit behind Bank of America Stadium.
In the immediate future, a temperature-controlled “bubble” will be available to the team. Site work began last week, and Tepper said Monday that he expects the project to be completed by the beginning of the 2019 season.
When headquarters shift elsewhere, several options are being considered for the current practice area, including construction of an entertainment district or parking facilities. Tepper added that the bubble, while perhaps not a long-term option for Panthers practices, will not go to waste as simply a short-term investment.
“There are a lot of long-term things we’re thinking about that make more sense than having ... I mean, does it make sense to have seven acres in Uptown Charlotte as a practice field?” said Tepper. “I mean, we’ll have the bubble. Do you think we’ll just leave the bubble idle? It’s not going to happen that way.
“At this point in my life, it’s about trying to build stuff that’s going to be great.”