SC law­mak­ers craft­ing deal to lure Pan­thers fa­cil­i­ties out of Char­lotte

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY MAAYAN SCHECHTER AND KATHER­INE PER­ALTA

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No con­tract has been signed, but the Carolina Pan­thers and South Carolina law­mak­ers are work­ing on a deal to move the team’s busi­ness op­er­a­tions and train­ing fa­cil­i­ties out of Char­lotte and across the bor­der into South Carolina.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster made the an­nounce­ment Wed­nes­day, stand­ing in front of House and Se­nate lead­er­ship, most of whom at­tended a pri­vate meet­ing at the gov­er­nor’s man­sion that morn­ing with Pan­thers owner David Tep­per to dis­cuss de­tails of the deal.

Tep­per did not at­tend the press con­fer­ence, nor did other Pan­thers em­ploy­ees or mem­bers of his le­gal team.

McMaster said Tep­per ex­pressed in­ter­est in mov­ing 150 em­ploy­ees to a site in York or Lan­caster coun­ties, in­volv­ing an es­ti­mated pay­roll of $190 mil­lion a year. Last month, the Pan­thers met with Rock Hill Mayor John Get­tys and U.S. Rep. Ralph Nor­man, whose dis­trict bor­ders the Caroli­nas.

McMaster said the po­ten­tial Pan­thers’ move would in­clude an es­ti­mated in­vest­ment of at least $150 mil­lion within a four-year pe­riod

“This is a very ex­cit­ing mo­ment for South Carolina,” the gov­er­nor said, adding that talks be­tween Tep­per and South Carolina lead­ers have been go­ing on for months.

Char­lotte-area cor­po­ra­tions have of­ten pit­ted North Carolina and South Carolina against each other to elicit the best in­cen­tives deal, the Ob­server has re­ported. The Pan­thers could do the same.

Tep­per has had “on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions” with the N.C. Com­merce De­part­ment, said Ford Porter, a spokesman for N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper. Tep­per also has met with Cooper a few times over the past few months.

Dur­ing an ap­pear­ance Wed­nes­day at UNC Char­lotte, Cooper

was asked by re­porters whether North Carolina will make a coun­terof­fer. Cooper said he plans “to con­sult with lo­cal gov­ern­men­tal of­fi­cials and de­ter­mine what it is we want to do.

“Char­lotte has al­ways thought big and that’s why it’s the suc­cess­ful city that it is, so I think there is time to dis­cuss what needs to hap­pen in the fu­ture and what we need to do to make sure we have a con­tin­ued strong re­la­tion­ship with the Pan­thers,” Cooper said.

Char­lotte Mayor Vi Lyles told the Ob­server that although the city has not spo­ken with Cooper’s of­fice about a joint ef­fort to keep the team’s en­tire op­er­a­tions in Char­lotte, the city in­tends to work on some sort of re­ten­tion ef­fort.

“We see the Pan­thers as a great as­set in our city. Of course we want them to be suc­cess­ful and com­pet­i­tive,” Lyles said.

A team spokesman could not be reached for com­ment.

‘WE CAN OUT­RUN ANY­ONE’

State law­mak­ers al­ready are hop­ing to push new leg­is­la­tion filed Wed­nes­day through the re­spec­tive com­mit­tees as quickly as pos­si­ble to make the team el­i­gi­ble for spe­cific in­cen­tives. That in­cludes tax breaks and in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments that have been used by state lead­ers to lure other eco­nomic pow­er­houses such as Boe­ing in North Charleston and Volvo in Berke­ley County.

“A pro­fes­sional foot­ball team is a big busi­ness,” said House Speaker Jay Lu­cas, R-Dar­ling­ton. “And it in­volves much much more than where you play your foot­ball games.”

McMaster said if the Pan­thers come to the state, the prop­erty will in­clude prac­tice fields, park­ing, of­fices and other fa­cil­i­ties. McMaster also said there is a po­ten­tial to col­lab­o­rate and bring ho­tels, restau­rants and re­tail.

When asked whether he’s wor­ried about com­pet­ing bids from North Carolina, McMaster said he’s con­fi­dent a deal will be sealed.

“We’re not con­cerned about that,” he said. “We’re think­ing about South Carolina. We know we can out­run any­one on the field.”

Bruce Hen­der­son con­trib­uted to this story.

DAVID T. FOS­TER III dt­fos­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

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