Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers land contract moves NFL team closer to its new Rock Hill facility

The Carolina Panthers are another step closer to relocating team facilities to Rock Hill.

Multiple sources confirmed to The Herald that property is under contract for sale to the team. Mayor John Gettys said Thursday afternoon he isn’t aware of a finalized deal. He said a final sale could come by early fall to year’s end.

“The property where they hope to build their development is under contract,” Gettys told The Herald. “It hasn’t closed yet to my knowledge.”

The Charlotte Business Journal reported Thursday afternoon the land deal is complete, citing Gov. Henry McMaster. He spoke to media at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance annual retreat Thursday in Asheville, N.C.

A spokesperson for McMaster’s office Thursday told The Herald McMaster’s office is deferring to the Panthers for updates on the status of a deal.

Attempts to obtain comment from the team Thursday were unsuccessful.

Property long-discussed with the move is more than 200 acres off I-77, between Cherry Road and Dave Lyle Boulevard exits. One parcel is 207 acres, with six smaller properties beside it owned by the same family bringing the total to more than 280 acres.

County property records list the largest parcel at more than $1.3 million in market value. Together, the properties value at almost $2.5 million.

A rendering from the team in April shows a facility site stretching south from Eden Terrace to the rail bridge crossing the interstate. The drawing shows a new exit on I-77 about mid-project, with both northbound and southbound ramps.

panthersite...cropped.jpg
This is a proposed site plan for the Carolina Panther’s new headquarters in York County. Columbia

As of Thursday afternoon, the York County assessor’s office listed property sales through Sept. 10. None of those sales include the more than 200-acre property. The property hasn’t changed hands since 1998, per the assessor’s office, and only then as the latest of several title changes within the Hutchison family.

Multiple Charlotte Regional Business Alliance tweets from the retreat Thursday mention McMaster’s remarks on the Panthers. They mention regional collaboration and the idea of light rail from Charlotte to Rock Hill. They don’t mention the status of a land deal.

Even having the property under contract is a step toward one of the most anticipated additions to Rock Hill, ever.

In June, McMaster and Panthers owner David Tepper joined city and state leaders at a Rock Hill pep rally celebrating a planned facility move. Tepper talked of bringing a world-class medical facility to Rock Hill along with team facilities. McMaster signed a tax bill allowing $115 million in incentives for the team to relocate headquarters to South Carolina.

Conversation on the Panthers coming to Rock Hill dates back at least to November 2018 when team radio broadcaster Mick Mixon spoke at a York County Regional Chamber of Commerce event downtown. Mixon mentioned “a state-of-the-art practice facility with restaurants, shopping, banking, condos, apartments” among a long list of hypotheticals.

Rock Hill and York County leaders have been planning for a possible Panthers move for months. The county’s top tourism official Billy Dunlap took a trip to Frisco, Texas to see what economic impact the Dallas Cowboys facility has there. He and Gettys both said in recent months a Panthers practice site could mean economic development on a scale Rock Hill hasn’t yet seen.

Once a deal is finalized, Rock Hill could begin work with the Panthers on annexing the site into the city. It’s in unincorporated York County now. If a property owner requests annexation, it’s up to the municipality — in this case, Rock Hill — to approve or deny it. City leaders say they support bringing the Panthers property into the city, if given the opportunity.

The Panthers spent training camp and played games their inaugural season in South Carolina, but had headquarters in Charlotte for more than two decades. Training camp still is held on this side of the state line, in Spartanburg. Moving the team training site to Rock Hill wouldn’t impact where the team plays games.

Check back for more.

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John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.
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