The Carolina Panthers ended their agreement with Rock Hill over a new practice facility
Panthers owner David Tepper's real estate company announced Tuesday it has terminated its agreement with the city of Rock Hill, leaving the future of the NFL team’s planned $800 million headquarters and practice facility up in the air.
The news comes after the Panthers announced last month they were pausing construction on the project after failing to receive bonds from the city of Rock Hill to pay for public infrastructure.
Tepper has invested more than $175 million into the state-of-the-art facility, which is located about 25 miles south of the team's current downtown stadium and headquarters in Charlotte.
A spokesman for Tepper's GT Real Estate Holdings said in a statement to The Associated Press the Panthers are prepared to sit down with city of Rock Hill officials and other interested parties to “discuss the significant challenges ahead.”
The statement said the city of Rock Hill failed to issue the bonds or provide the funding for the public infrastructure for the project in early 2021. Tepper’s company said it negotiated with the city for more than a year, warning them in March they had 30 days or the Panthers would pull out.
"It is unfortunate that some recently decided to conduct a misguided, destructive public relations campaign to obscure their failures,” the statement from Tepper's company said.
Rock Hill officials responded to the announcement on Tuesday, calling the Panthers' announcement “misleading and erroneous" and saying they embraced the Panthers, welcomed their headquarters to South Carolina and "did everything to make this project a success and has not defaulted on any of our obligations.”
“It was and remains our intention to continue negotiating in good faith while protecting the interests of our taxpayers," the city of Rock Hill said in a statement to The Associated Press. “In fact, in the past few weeks we have attempted to meet with the Panthers on numerous occasions to no avail.”
The city said it has met all obligations required under the agreement, but could not provide the Panthers unlimited resources and had to protect its taxpayers.
The Panthers headquarters and practice facility were expected to be completed in 2023.
If completed, the Panthers would conduct business in Rock Hill and hold practices and training camp at the new facility. The Panthers would continue to play games at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
South Carolina has had long ties to the Panthers. The team has held its summer training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg and played its first season in 1995 at Clemson University while Bank of America Stadium was being built.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster called the Panthers announcement a “disappointment” in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday.
“We had hoped they would be a part of South Carolina’s record-breaking, booming economy,” McMaster said in the statement Tuesday.
South Carolina lawmakers in 2019 approved a bill offering the Panthers more than $100 million in tax breaks once the team headquarters were opened. The team would have been exempt from paying state income taxes for players, coaches and other employees for 15 years. The tax breaks will no longer apply if Tepper doesn't build in the state.
Opponents of the deal questioned whether the state should be helping the NFL's richest owner. Tepper is a hedge fund manager worth around $11 billion.