Construction of an $800-million headquarters and training facility for the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers remains stymied by a financial dispute, with no indication when, or if, the Rock Hill, S.C., project will resume.
Panthers owner David Tepper, through his Charlotte-based holding company, Tepper Sports & Entertainment (TSE), halted the 20-month-old project on March 7, claiming that the city of Rock Hill was a year late in making an initial payment on a commitment to fund $225 million worth of infrastructure at the 234-acre site, which will also include a mix of hospitality, residential, office, entertainment, retail, athletics and sports medicine facilities. A new interchange with nearby Interstate 77 is also part of the project.
TSE issued a statement that day saying that while its development arm had spent more than $170 million in the development. “Our partners have been unable to contribute the agreed-upon investment to fund the construction of the public infrastructure. Given the economic realities, the difficult-but-prudent decision has been made to pause the project.” The statement also promised that TSE would continue efforts “to find an economically acceptable solution for all parties to continue this project in Rock Hill.”
Rock Hill officials countered that the original plan to issue bonds had been delayed due to a lack of information from the Panthers, and that the city was unaware of the 2021 payment obligation. In a statement, the city reiterated its intention to honor the agreement with the team, but added that it “specifically did not agree to use any city funds or assets for this purpose beyond the tax revenues generated from the site."
The statement went on to say that Rock Hill “remains willing to issue any marketable bonds fully supported by the developer, whose support remains integral for the success of this public/private partnership.”
On March 21, Rock Hill officials reportedly offered a new financial plan developed with the support of surrounding York County. TSE has yet to respond to those overtures, nor has it made any public statement about the project, the first phase of which was scheduled to open in 2023.
Sports business observers have speculated on a number of possibilities for Tepper’s decision to pause the project, ranging from gaining a more favorable financial deal with local and state governments to a potential relocation of the team out of Charlotte, where it has played since joining the NFL in 1996.
Mascaro Construction and Barton Malow, the construction manager at-risk joint venture tapped by the Panthers to build the Populous-designed development, declined to comment on the project pause or disclose how far work had progressed since ground was broken in July 2020. TSE did not respond to ENR’s request for comment.
According to the Panthers’ website, the development totals 3.9 million sq ft, with the initial phase requiring one million cu yds of earthwork. The centerpiece, a five-story, 600,000-sq-ft indoor practice facility, will feature two, 90-ft by 80-ft, operable glazed doors that will open to a small stadium, creating an event space for concerts and live events.