Gov. Henry McMaster talks Panthers move to SC
The Carolina Panthers are planning a 200-acre development in York County that would include an orthopedic sport medicine facility that would employ about 200 people, a hotel of at least 150 rooms that would include conference space, and perhaps corporate headquarters, offices and residential projects as well, a team official said Tuesday.
The development would be similar to the Dallas Cowboys’ The Star in Frisco, Texas, and the Minnesota Vikings planned Viking Lakes in Eagan, Minn. The Star includes a hotel, shopping, restaurants and other amenities in addition to football facilities.
“There’s a misunderstanding that we are building a little practice facility,” Mark Hart, the Panthers’ vice president for development, told The State. “But our new headquarters is just a portion of the project we want to build. . . . (New Panthers’ owner David Tepper) is thinking big.”
The Panthers are seeking $115 million in incentives from the state of South Carolina to move the NFL team’s headquarters from Charlotte to a $200 million to $250 million facility in York County. The facility would include an indoor practice facility of up to 10,000 seats, a half dozen or so outdoor practice fields, as well as training facilities and offices.
The new digs would help the Panthers meet or surpass new facilities being built by other NFL franchises, Hart said. And like the South Carolina Gamecocks’ new operations center in Columbia, the York County complex could help the team attract the best players, coaches and staff.
“If you want to improve your chances of winning championships, you have to have best-in-class facilities,” Hart said.
Football City USA
In addition to high-tech training facilities like a hyperbolic chamber and sleep clinic, the headquarters would also feature an indoor practice field with up to 10,000 spectator seats and a half dozen or so outdoor fields.
The fields could be used to play more than one high school football game at a time, and the indoor facility would be capable of hosting championship games, concerts and corporate events.
The playing fields, training fields and medical facilities would bolster Rock Hill as a football hotspot and live up to its self-appointed moniker of Football City USA, Hart said. The town’s three public high schools have won multiple state championships in the last decade, and former first-round NFL picks Jadeveon Clowney of the Texans, Stephon Gilmore of the Patriots, and Cordarrelle Patterson of the Bears are from the city.
“Rock Hill can be a sports destination,” Hart said.
The team is seeking up to 200 acres for the project. Hart said the team hasn’t decided on a location, but has a front runner that declined to identify. A site map sent to The State shows how the complex might be situated at a location off of Interstate 77 between Dave Lyle Boulevard and Eden Terrace. The map shows a new interchange at I-77.
The team wants to begin construction later this year and move into the complex in the first quarter of 2022.
The most concrete aspect of the complex beyond the football headquarters is the sports medicine complex. Hart said it would likely be 80,000 to 100,000 square feet and employ about 200 people. That would more than double the 150 jobs announced for the headquarters move.
The team has not announced a partner for the facility, but officials of Charlotte’s Atrium Health attended a meeting between the Panthers and S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster last month.
Hart would only say that Atrium “is certainly one of the candidates and a great candidate.”
Atrium declined comment except to say: “Atrium Health has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with another renowned and forward-looking organization, the Carolina Panthers. We look forward to continuing and deepening our relationship with the Panthers in meaningful ways in the future.”
The other aspects of the development are in earlier stages.
A full service hotel of at least 150 rooms would be needed, Hart said, likely built by an outside developer or in partnership with an outside developer.
The Cowboy’s The Star in Frisco features a 16-story Omni Hotel with 300 guest rooms and suites, 4,000 square feet of meeting space and a 13,000-square-foot ballroom.
The Vikings’ Viking Lakes has received approval for a convention center hotel but as yet no deal has been announced.
As for future development, the Panthers will develop a master plan once the incentive deal is decided and site is purchased.
“We’re calling it sort of Plan 1-A,” Hart said. “It is certainly in our capabilities to do it.”
But the deal hangs on the incentive plan, which is still in limbo in the S.C. General Assembly.
The House in March voted 90-25 to pass a bill — H. 4243 — that would give the Panthers nearly $8 million in tax breaks for each of the next 15 years if the team makes the move. The Senate is slated to debate the proposal Wednesday.
The tax breaks are worth roughly $115 million over the next 15 years.
In April, a report released by the S.C. Governor’s Office showed that if the Panthers relocate their main operations across the border to Rock Hill, the net value — payroll, construction, investment, etc. — to the state will be $188 million over 15 years.
The two-page analysis produced by the state’s Commerce Department was sent to each of the state’s 46 senators in an effort to assuage their concerns about the project.
The total economic impact — including state revenue, private economic investment and jobs created — would reach $3.8 billion within 15 years, creating more than 5,700 jobs, the Commerce Department said.
Starts with a ‘B’
But State Sen. Dick Harpootlian, a Columbia Democrat, is blocking the tax incentives package for the NFL team from passing the Senate because of concerns that the deal won’t benefit South Carolina. He last week asked Gov. Henry McMaster to meet with senators in private to provide a more detailed breakdown of the move’s benefits for South Carolina before the Senate votes on whether to offer the tax breaks.
Harpootlian said he hired a former chief economist from the Commerce Department to analyze the overall economic impact of the deal.
In her analysis, Rebecca Gunnlaugsson estimated the Commerce Department’s projected economic impact is based on the assumption that all 150 Panthers players, coaches, staff and owners would move to South Carolina. She expects half of that number would move to the Palmetto State.
She said the Commerce Department’s projected economic impact is overstated by nearly $2.7 billion.
Hart predicted that the teams’ players and staff would live at the South Carolina site to be near the facility and avoid a long commute to work, and downplayed the competing economic impact projections. The impact would be substantial, he said.
“Whatever you measure it by it starts with a ‘B,’” he said.