The South Carolina Senate has agreed to provide $120 million in tax breaks to the Carolina Panthers to move their practice fields and team headquarters out of North Carolina.
The 27-15 vote Thursday came after contentious debate with several senators questioning whether public money should be given to a billionaire NFL owner and the $3.8 billion proposed economic benefit of the new facility is wildly exaggerated.
The state House approved the measure last month and Gov. Henry McMaster also supports the bill.
But Democratic Sen. Dick Harpootlian has criticized the bill, accusing state officials of vastly inflating estimates of job creation and economic benefits if the team does relocate.
Harpootlian talking to WFAE's Mark Rumsey last month called the deal "fool's gold."
"This is a vanity project for the folks at the Department of Commerce and other elected officials who like the idea of having a pro-football facility in South Carolina, even if it costs hundreds of millions of dollars — of taxpayer dollars," he said.
Harpootlian this week lifted a procedural block on the bill, allowing it to go before the Senate in a vote
Panthers owner David Tepper said Wednesday he wants to move the team's practice fields to South Carolina, but if the state can't help him with incentives, he's fine keeping them in Charlotte.
"They'll have to make a decision whether they want it or not," he told The State newspaper. "I'll stay in Charlotte. I could stay home."
The Panthers are planning to build a 200-acre multi-use facility in Rock Hill 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.