Plans for the NFL’s Carolina Panther’s new headquarters and practice facility in Rock Hill, South Carolina were set to reach completion of the first phase of construction next year — but parent company Tepper Sports & Entertainment announced on March 7, 2022, that the team had paused work on the development.
According to Tepper Sports, the city of Rock Hill is supposed to contribute a significant amount to the project’s infrastructure costs — contributions that reportedly have yet to materialize.
Reports noted that Rock Hill originally agreed to contribute $20 million towards the project, alongside the issuance of more than $200 million in bonds. However, the missed bonds are holding up the project.
“We are committed to bettering the Carolinas community that supports our team and players,” the company noted in its statement. “To that end, while GT Real Estate Holdings, LLC has invested more than $170 million into the development in Rock Hill, our partners have been unable to contribute the agreed-upon investment to fund the construction of the public infrastructure.”
The state of South Carolina originally offered the Panthers $115 million in incentives to move their headquarters out of Charlotte, and the team is reportedly investing over $1 billion in the development of the facility.
“Given the economic realities, the difficult but prudent decision has been made to pause the project,” Tepper’s statement continued. “The ongoing work will continue with our partners to find an economically acceptable solution for all parties to continue this project in Rock Hill.”
Contractors and their workers will likely hope that the project can get past these negotiations soon. Tepper Sports & Entertainment agreed to pay all workers and extend their wages a week past the work stoppage — a period which ended on March 14, 2022.
“The City was unaware of any planned pause in construction of the Panthers facility,” read a statement from Rock Hill. “The City has met all obligations required under the agreement, and is not aware of any March 2021 payment obligation. The City intends to continue honoring our agreement with the Panthers and fully supports the project.”
It’s fair for those involved to be concerned about the future of the project, as there’s now a huge amount of money that is in limbo for contractors while Rock Hill and the Panthers negotiate the way forward.
However, it’s safe to assume that a resolution comes soon enough. Professor and sports economist Victor Matheson noted that pausing construction on the project is often an effective negotiating tool for projects like this.
However, it’s safe to assume that a resolution comes soon enough. Given that the project first broke ground in July 2020, there’s a lot at stake for both sides to consider abandoning construction entirely.
“The only thing worse than spending tens of thousands of taxpayer money on a practice facility is paying that much money on a practice facility that never opens up,” Matheson added.
Other sports teams have found success when it comes to these types of negotiations in the recent past. Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians were able to secure a new $435 million deal with the state of Ohio after exploring a relocation, while the Oakland Athletics have used similar leverage in their exploration of a new facility which could end up costing $12 billion.
However, if it’s up to Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys, this project will move forward as planned, stating that the decision is up to the Panthers.
“That’s really a question for them,” he said. “That’s not my impression from our conversation…[the city of Rock Hill was] all-in from the beginning.”