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SC Gov. McMaster Compares Likely Panthers Move To BMW, Boeing

Carolina Panthers' Bank of America Stadium
Carolina Panthers

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and legislative leaders met with Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper at the Governor's mansion in Columbia Wednesday morning and said the state is working quickly on legislation to help the team move its corporate headquarters to either York or Lancaster counties.

In a news conference, McMaster said Tepper wants to move 150 employees to the new site. Those employees — including players and coaches — have a total payroll of $190 million, he said.

They would move to a $150 million site that would not only include a headquarters and practice fields but also other uses — like an Atrium sports medicine center; a hotel; and retail. The team would continue to play in Bank of America Stadium in uptown Charlotte.

"We are making progress, but we have a long way to go," McMaster said during a news conference that was streamed by Fox 46.

McMaster said Tepper told him that he wants to move quickly. 

"We are moving as fast as we can without making mistakes," he said.

He said the negotiations with the team — which included representatives from the S.C. Department of Transporation — were similar to past deals made with BMW, Boeing and Volvo, which have factories in the state.

New suburban practice facilities and team headquarters are becoming increasingly popular in the NFL.

The Minnesota Vikings recently opened a new $125 million headquarters in Eagan, Minn., which will have medical facilities, a hotel and retail on site. The Dallas Cowboys have a similar facility in Frisco, a suburb north of Dallas.

Experts have said teams are looking to those sites to gain a competitive advantage, but to make more money from the spin-off developments. 

"We believe this will be a magnet," McMaster said.

Senate president Harvey Peeler said legislation has been introduced to allow the team to qualify for tax credits in the state. Peeler did not mention Lancaster County as a possible location for the team; he said the Panthers would move to York County.

State Rep. Jay Lucas said the move means the Panthers are a team for both North and South Carolina.

"It involves much more than where you play your football games," Lucas said. "The business of football involves where you are headquartered, where your practice fields are [and] where your facilities are to deal with medical issues," Lucas said. "The fact that they will play in North Carolina, and move their football operation and vast payroll to South Carolina, is something I never thought I would see."

S.C. officials also said the new headquarters could also be home to a possible Major League Soccer expansion team. Tepper has expressed interest in bringing an MLS team to Charlotte and had previously said the team could play at Bank of America Stadium.

It's unclear if Tepper would want to have the new S.C. site also have a soccer stadium.

The team's current headquarters for executives and employees is inside Bank of America Stadium.

The team has three practice fields in uptown, two blocks from the stadium. But when it rains, the team sometimes practices inside the Charlotte Convention Center.

In 2013, the Charlotte City Council approved spending $87.5 million on subsidies to improve the stadium, including new escalators and other renovations.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.