Carolina Panthers vice president and COO Mark Hart confirmed what’s been rumored for months in York County land development circles, that the NFL team has a plan to purchase Waterford Golf Club.
“We’d like to acquire that as part of our development project in Rock Hill, and see if we can’t make that an even greater community amenity,” Hart said.
Hart said the team has a purchase agreement and is working through due diligence on the site. In September the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation took a vote to clear up land options in had both at Waterford and at the historic McCrory’s Building in downtown Rock Hill.
RHEDC leaders at the time said they’d only spoken with current owners and not the anticipated ones, but that deals appeared close at both sites. Several economic development leaders at the time said they’d heard rumors the Panthers were looking at Waterford.
Waterford isn’t far from the 235-acre Hutchison family site where the Panthers plan to open team headquarters and training facilities by mid-2022. Waterford itself is 205 acres, valued according to county records at more than $4 million.
Plans are to continue using Waterford as a golf course.
“Anything that we do, we’re going to try to improve it over its current state,” Hart said. “It’s already a great asset. It’s a great course. It’s a great layout. But perhaps if we can do something in conjunction with the development on the Hutchison site and make it something that’s got a Panthers brand or something that’s even better for the community, I think that’s something we’re going to look forward to trying.”
The team could start construction in April for the headquarters, off I-77 between its Cherry Road and Dave Lyle Boulevard intersections. The team is working through site infrastructure, zoning changes and neighborhood meetings. The plan is moving from concept to schematic in the next couple of weeks, Hart said.
“We want it to be first class,” he said. “We want it to be done right.”
The draw to Rock Hill was a mix, Hart said, of existing facilities and opportunity to create new ones.
Panthers owner David Tepper “adored” the Rock Hill airport not far from the headquarters site, Hart said. Getting people to and from the site without getting clogged up at the airport in Charlotte was important.
“We’ll bring all these corporate HQs down there, bring the players and free agents and all the big shots down here, they can get to that airport really fast,” Hart said.
The Panthers site also is close to well known amenities such as Rock Hill Galleria, Riverwalk and Manchester Meadows. The team isn’t sure what possibilities might arise being so close to Winthrop University. Proximity to Waterford Golf Club was another draw, an opportunity for the team to put its stamp on the community.
“We found (Waterford) over near the Catawba (River) that we’ve got some plans to make that a great resource,” Hart said.
Waterford is at 1900 Clubhouse Road in Rock Hill. According to its site, the 18-hole championship course opened in 1997. It includes a clubhouse with banquet and dining facilities.