Politics & Government

Gov. McMaster to hold ceremonial bill signing to bring Carolina Panthers to SC

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster will hold a ceremonial bill signing next week giving the Carolina Panthers roughly $115 million in state tax discounts, a move that paves the way for the NFL team’s move across the North Carolina border and into Rock Hill.

An invitation provided to The State said the ceremonial bill signing will start at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Fountain Park in Rock Hill. The event is open to the public. Parking will be available at the Elizabeth Lane parking deck, 116 S. Elizabeth Lane.

Panthers owner David Tepper, other team representatives, players and team mascot Sir Purr are expected to join the governor and other State House leaders.

Asked Thursday about the significance of the Panthers moving the team’s headquarters south, Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys said, “The best I can come up with ... what Florida was like 40 to 60 years ago before Disney World. The Carolina Panthers will do the same things in South Carolina — not at the scope of Disney World. But South Carolina is not the same scope as Florida. There’s nothing like this in South Carolina.”

To facilitate the move, S.C. lawmakers last week signed off on a massive incentive package to lure the Panthers to the state, and pledged to spend another $40 million in tax dollars to build an interchange off Interstate 77, near where the complex will be built.

McMaster signed legislation last week.

The football franchise has plans to buy up to 200 acres in York County, between the Cherry Road and Dave Lyle Boulevard exits. The project will feature a new team headquarters, new training facilities and a state-of-the-art sports medicine facility — a complex team leaders have said will rival top sports operations elsewhere in the country with the construction of hotels, restaurants and retail.

Gettys told The Charlotte Observer the Panthers and the owners of the property in question have “reached an agreement and are circulating the paperwork and hope to close by early fall.”

Gettys added that Rock Hill will then begin working on a development agreement with the team “so the Panthers’ vision and the city’s vision line up.”

“The big winner down the road will be Charlotte,” Gettys said. “He (Tepper) will now be developing all that land around the stadium to recreate this experience (of the practice complex). It’s a regional win.”

State House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, told The State Thursday the project is a win far beyond just Rock Hill.

“I’m excited for what this means emblematically and economically, for not only our area, but the entire state,” he said. “It is quite an accomplishment that we have been known as Football City U.S.A. because of the talent that comes out of Rock Hill. Now it’ll be a crowning accomplishment for us to be Football City U.S.A. because of the talent that is coming into Rock Hill.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect next week’s event will be a ceremonial bill signing.

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.
Michael Gordon has been the Observer’s legal affairs writer since 2013. He has been an editor and reporter at the paper since 1992, occasionally writing about schools, religion, politics and sports. He spent two summers as “Bikin Mike,” filing stories as he pedaled across the Carolinas.