Carolina Panthers

Panthers could bring in millions for SC. Here’s what it will cost

The Panthers are considering this Rock Hill-area site for potential practice facility

The Carolina Panthers are considering building a practice facility for the team in South Carolina. Rock Hill mayor John Gettys recently mentioned a possible site in the Rock Hill area that the team is allegedly interested in.
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The Carolina Panthers are considering building a practice facility for the team in South Carolina. Rock Hill mayor John Gettys recently mentioned a possible site in the Rock Hill area that the team is allegedly interested in.

If the Carolina Panthers relocate its main operations across the border to Rock Hill, the value to the state will exceed $188 million over 15 years, according to a report released Monday by the S.C. Governor’s Office.

The two-page analysis produced by the state’s Commerce Department was sent to each of the state’s 46 senators in an effort to assuage their concerns about the project — a venture announced in March by Gov. Henry McMaster and other State House leaders.

While state leaders have said the NFL team’s arrival would be a boon for the state, the move also would come with a cost to South Carolinians. State and local officials still would have to spend roughly $40 million the first year of the team’s move, nearly all of which would pay for the construction of an interchange on I-77, paid for by a mix of federal, state and local dollars.

Over a 15-year span, the cost to the public would reach about $108 million, including about $65 million in job development tax credits the team would get after the project is underway, the report says.

“This is a great deal,” McMaster wrote Monday in a letter to state senators, asking them to support a Senate bill that would offer the NFL team millions in incentives. “It will create economic growth and prosperity for our citizens. It will bolster South Carolina’s prestige and ‘brand’ around the world. And it will provide our state with a distinct advantage in the global competition for jobs and capital investment.”

Not everyone is convinced.

Last month, freshman state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, put the brakes on a bill that would offer tax breaks to lure the Panthers across the border. He called for a more specific accounting of what the state stood to gain and what it would cost.

The House, meanwhile, passed the legislation after a 90-25 vote a few days earlier without seeing the report released publicly Monday.

Harpootlian said Monday the state commerce office’s cost-benefit analysis is not enough to convince him to support the bill or remove his objection to it, a legislative action that can stop a bill dead in its tracks.

“The letter raises more questions than it answers,” said Harpootlian, who added he wants the state’s Commerce Department to explain how it came to these numbers. “I don’t know if there is a benefit, and, if so, what is it?”

He continued: “If somebody came to me and said, ‘We think there’s oil offshore in South Carolina and, based on our best guesstimate, we’ll pump $200 million a day out of it, and we want you to invest $100 million in this process,’ wouldn’t you like to see some report from some expert saying that there’s oil down there?”

On Thursday, Panthers coach Ron Rivera, some players and the mascot, Sir Purr, will visit the State House, the S.C. Governor’s Office confirmed. The visit is an apparent effort to build support for the plan.

McMaster and lawmakers met privately with Panthers owner David Tepper in March to discuss moving the Panthers’ headquarters and training facilities to York County and what incentives could hasten that move.

The team’s move to South Carolina would include, at minimum, a $200 million investment for a new building, machinery and equipment. According to the report, the Panthers will bring 150 jobs and a $190 million annual payroll to South Carolina. The state will reap tax benefits off of about $152 million of those yearly salaries.

S.C. Commerce officials would not tell The State exactly how much the team’s payroll, where annual salaries average about $1 million, will generate for the state.

Much of the team’s highly-paid players and employees will be taxed where the games are played, a fee commonly referred to as the “jock tax.”

However, Commerce projects that the state will reap about $39.6 million in state revenue in the first year and $292 million after 15 years. The agency also expects the total economic impact — including state revenue, and private economic investment and jobs created — to reach $3.8 billion in 15 years. That economic impact stems from not only the Panthers’ organization but also the other businesses expected to crop up around the NFL team’s headquarters.

McMaster and other state leaders expect something big.

“The new team complex will be modeled after the Dallas Cowboys’ renowned sports and entertainment district, ‘The Star,’ and is expected to attract a state-of-the-art sports medical facility along with top flight hotel and convention space, restaurant and retail facilities,” McMaster said in his letter to state senators.

“Without these statutory changes, the state will be walking away from an extraordinary and transformative opportunity.”

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Maayan Schechter (My-yawn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.

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