It’s been a long road getting the Carolina Panthers to Rock Hill. Now the roads they’ll use once they get here are coming into focus.
On Friday afternoon, Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study gave initial approval to a change for its long-term plan showing two new roads as part of the planned Panthers headquarters and training site along Interstate 77. Both will start at a new cloverleaf diamond interchange between the Dave Lyle Boulevard and Cherry Road exits.
A four-lane road will run from the planned interchange west, bisecting the more than 200-acre Panthers site, to Mt. Gallant Road. A three-lane road will head the opposite way, routing from the interchange through existing industrial buildings to Paragon Way.
RFATS director David Hooper said at this point, his group doesn’t have any commitment to fund the new roads that more likely would be a responsibility shared between the team, Rock Hill and York County. The Panthers site is in unincorporated York County but likely would be annexed into Rock Hill.
Groups like RFATS, federal highways, the state and other large transportation groups would tackle the interchange portion of the project.
Adding the two planned roads in addition to the interchange to its long-term list allows RFATS to model impacts the new roads may have.
“We have to make sure what the operational impact of that will be,” Hooper said.
A new interchange on I-77 could, for instance, cause drivers who now use the Cherry, Celanese or Dave Lyle exits to choose alternate routes.
“It can change driver behavior,” Hooper said.
The RFATS policy committee is made up of mayors and county elected leaders from Fort Mill, Rock Hill, York County, Lancaster County and Tega Cay. The group unanimously supported the move Friday.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for our community,” said Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys. “The tax value of that project is 25% of what the existing tax value of Rock Hill is.”
Hooper calls recent projects like Riverwalk in Rock Hill, Kingsley in Fort Mill and Red Ventures in Indian Land developments of regional impact.
“The Panthers facility is one such development,” he said.
The Panthers roads discussion influences one that preceded it Friday — mass transit. Area leaders voted to update a past study on what type of transit may best connect the Rock Hill and Fort Mill areas to Charlotte. Charlotte transportation leaders already are talking about the possibility, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Hooper said the Panthers site reinvigorated discussion on transit, something he sees as a possible solution to increased interstate congestion regardless of what impact the team facility has.
“That type of development causes you to cross-check your assumptions about what is manageable,” he said.
The Panthers facility property in Rock Hill, once a large farm, is under contract to the team but as of Friday afternoon, has not been listed in county records as sold.