Politics & Government

Rock Hill in play for Panthers headquarters, practice facility

The Carolina Panthers have talked with Rock Hill about moving the NFL team’s headquarters and training facilities to the city, according to U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman and Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys.

Team executives, who have been considering locations in both Carolinas, met Feb. 5 with Norman and Gettys at the Panthers’ facilities, Norman, a Rock Hill Republican, told McClatchy on Monday.

“(We) made the pitch for locating their practice (facility) to York County and will have further meetings as our sites to consider become finalized,” Norman said.

Gettys said Tuesday that, to his knowledge, talks haven’t come down to specific locations.

“I’ve talked to them, but I think they’ve talked to several (areas),” Gettys said. “We’ll see what they do.”

The NFL franchise’s discussions with South Carolina — held in multiple meetings with state and local leaders this year, The State has learned — have reached the highest levels of state government. Panthers owner David Tepper and other team officials are scheduled to meet with S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and legislative leaders at the Governor’s Mansion at 9 a.m. Wednesday, sources told The State.

The governor’s office invited top lawmakers — including party leaders in both State House chambers — to the meeting, which is expected to last up to two hours, two sources familiar with the meeting told The State.

Reports also have pointed to the former Knights Stadium site in Fort Mill or a site near Carowinds theme park. The AAA Charlotte Knights played at the stadium until moving to a new stadium in downtown Charlotte in 2014.

The Panthers’ legal team also met with a top senator last week to discuss legislation that might be necessary to move the Panthers across the border, one source told The State.

The conversation was generally about South Carolina’s existing economic incentive laws, and how they might need changing in order to qualify the Panthers for incentives.

For example, under S.C. law, players on the Panthers’ 53-man roster don’t work enough hours to count as full-time employees. The S.C. Legislature would need to pass a revision to that law so the Panthers could get credit — and incentives — for bringing more jobs to the Palmetto State.

The state also could look at offering improvements to roads in and out of a facility or water and sewer improvements, The State has learned.

Details of the incentives being discussed were unavailable Monday and Tuesday. Panthers lawyers shared few details of their plans, a source said.

Fort Mill Times reporter John Marks and The State reporter Bristow Marchant contributed.

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Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.
Avery G. Wilks is The State’s senior S.C. State House and politics reporter. He was named the 2018 S.C. Journalist of the Year by the South Carolina Press Association. He grew up in Chester, S.C., and graduated from the University of South Carolina’s top-ranked Honors College in 2015.