Rock Hill mayor’s confirmation of possible Panthers site creates buzz with neighbors

Rock Hill SC neighbors react to potential Carolina Panthers move

Rock Hill SC neighbors react to the possibility of the Carolina Panthers moving the team practice site to South Carolina. Residents and businesses say the move would be positive.
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Rock Hill SC neighbors react to the possibility of the Carolina Panthers moving the team practice site to South Carolina. Residents and businesses say the move would be positive.

A Rock Hill site in discussion to bring the Carolina Panthers practice facility is getting neighbors excited, as they await word on whether the deal will happen.

Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys said on Thursday said a property south of the Cherry Road exit on I-77, bordered by Anderson Road and the Eden Terrace extension, is in consideration for the Panthers practice site, headquarters and related development, as reported by The Charlotte Observer. The report said the site is the only one in Rock Hill known to be in the running, though there could be several sites elsewhere.

Anticipation has been high on figuring out where the Panthers practice site could go on the South Carolina side of the state line since a mid-March meeting between team owner David Tepper and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster in Columbia. McMaster and other state elected officials held a press conference touting efforts to bring the practice facility to York or Lancaster counties.

At that time, Fort Mill Mayor Guynn Savage said her town wasn’t in the running.

“I believe the only people involved in the discussions are the ones who have an area that would be amenable to the Panthers,” she said. “The town of Fort Mill does not. We are not involved in those discussions for that reason.”

Tega Cay city leaders hadn’t been part of discussions either.

“The city has not been in direct contact with the Panthers,” city manager Charlie Funderburk said earlier this month, “but one of our developers did have preliminary talks with them about an undeveloped site in Tega Cay. Again those were preliminary talks and the city was not involved.”

York County leaders said they hadn’t been in specific site discussions. Only Gettys confirmed his city had been in discussions with the team and state leaders on a prospective site.

The NFL franchise now practices beside its Uptown Charlotte stadium.

The Observer report Thursday states the team is considering property owned by Hiram Hutchison. County records show Hutchison or members of the Hutchison family own seven parcels there combining for more than 280 acres. The largest is a 207-acre piece bordering the interstate and the Hutchison Place subdivision. Together, the properties are valued at almost $2.5 million.

In Lancaster County on Thursday for a corporate expansion groundbreaking, McMaster said a new Panthers practice site could bring anything from a hotel or retail to a convention center or light rail connection to Charlotte.

“This would be a great thing to have it in South Carolina,” McMaster said. “To have the office and the other facilities that may be attracted to accompany that including a medical facility, maybe even a convention center, retail. Of course, there’s always the possibility of light rail.”

SC Gov. Henry McMaster talks Carolina Panthers potential move to Rock Hill. McMaster spoke on light rail, a convention center and more.

Online comments on the possible move to Rock Hill, and the state economic development incentives likely to accompany it, have been mixed. Some express excitement for the team growing its presence in the area. Others state traffic and development concerns, or issues offering the team incentives.

While the Rock Hill site along I-77 isn’t set in stone, neighbors there say they’d be happy to have the Panthers join them. Patriot’s Crossing resident Opie Sanders easily can reel off his favorite Panthers players. He’d heard reports the team may be looking at a South Carolina practice facility site, Rock Hill specifically.

“That’s kind of shocking that they’re going to come all the way to Rock Hill just to practice,” Sanders said. “When I heard about it I didn’t believe it.”

News of a potential site so close to him in discussion makes the move seem possible, he said. The buildup discussed around the potential site — hotel, apartment, convention center — would be a major plus for his community.

“People for traveling and stuff,” Sanders said. “Yeah that would be good, man. That’ll make Rock Hill more on the map of South Carolina, you know? Having a big time team like the Carolina Panthers.”

Jason Sandy works at Ferguson, a plumbing supply business. He isn’t quite the Panthers fan Sanders is.

“I don’t watch football,” Sandy said. “I don’t care about sports at all, unless I’ve got a fishing pole.”

But, he cares whether the Panthers move in near his business.

“For our business, it’s going to be a really positive thing just because all those buildings are going to need plumbed, and we’re a supply house that’s basically right down the street,” Sandy said.

He sees the potential development fitting into what Rock Hill seems to be doing in recent years.

“Of course it’ll bring some more money in,” Sandy said. “And maybe it’ll aid to even more, I know Rock Hill has been trying to grow and develop a little bit, especially with all the Riverwalk stuff in that area. So I guess that’s just pushing forward in that regard.”

Adding the Panthers would be another major step forward, he said.

“Football is big money, especially in America,” Sandy said. “It’s going to be really good for Rock Hill. And it’ll be good for us too.”

Kirsten Cyphers at Whitesell Investigative Services is a Panthers fan. She’d expect to become more of one if the team locates just down the interstate from her business.

“It would be great in the area,” she said. “It’s going to bring a lot more businesses to the area. I think it’s wonderful that it’s going to bridge the gap between Charlotte and the Rock Hill area.”

Especially if that bridging involves transit.

“I’d love to see the light rail come to Rock Hill,” Cyphers said. “I think that would be great for people that work in Charlotte and even people from Charlotte that work here in Rock Hill.”

The concern some may have of roads keeping up with more demand is something Cyphers believes project and community leaders could handle.

“I think they’ll figure it out, and more roads mean more business,” Cyphers said.

Mark Walker at Eden Terrace Self Storage would be happy to see those businesses.

“Anything that comes in this area, that brings any kind of activity or traffic through here, is going to be good for us,” he said. “This whole area could stand to be developed a little more than it is now. We’ve been waiting for that to happen for a while.”

Walker said he wouldn’t mind meeting a player or two if the move happens. Especially if they’re coming in looking for storage.

“They might all need some storage,” Walker said. “They could come visit us. That’d be great.”

If the Panthers need and expertise on building in the area, the team can ask Steve Norton. The Hutchinson Place resident built his home in the subdivision right beside the proposed site back in the 1980s. He still recalls those earliest days of the team when practices were held at Winthrop University.

“I like the Panthers,” Norton said. “I’ve been to a few games. But it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been back up there. But I’d like to see them stay here in South Carolina for a training facility.”

He’d be happy to welcome the Panthers and whatever development may join the team.

“I think it’d be good for businesses and retail,” Norton said. “I think it’d be a good thing, being right here close by.”

Norton guesses a good many neighbors feel the same way.

“A lot of people like the Panthers,” he said. “We pull for them. We’d like to see them go all the way.”

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