Pan­thers owner Tep­per coyly hints at time­line for new prac­tice fa­cil­ity

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY JOUR­DAN RODRIGUE

jro­drigue@char­lot­teob­server.com

David Tep­per re­turned to his home city of Pitts­burgh on Thurs­day, for his sec­ond game since he be­came the owner of the Carolina Pan­thers in July.

Af­ter vis­it­ing his new build­ing at Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity, the Tep­per Quad­ran­gle, as well as his old high school, Pe­abody (now the Barack Obama Acad­emy), Tep­per spoke with re­porters on the side­line be­fore Thurs­day night’s Pan­thers game against the Steel­ers.

Tep­per was closely in­volved in the de­sign and con­struc­tion of the Tep­per Quad, and fi­nanced a third of the $ 201 mil­lion project. He has also been putting into place plans for new Carolina Pan­thers fa­cil­i­ties.

“Let me just say this, I will be very sur­prised if we aren’t play­ing in­doors be­fore the end of next sum­mer, for prac­tice some­how or an­other,” said Tep­per coyly, adding that he wasn’t go­ing to re­veal a lo­ca­tion of any po­ten­tial fa­cil­ity just yet.

A plan for a multi-use, cov­ered prac­tice fa­cil­ity has been one of Tep­per’s top pri­or­i­ties since be­com­ing the owner of the team. Tep­per might con­sider such a fa­cil­ity in the Rock Hill area, to con­tinue to in­cor­po­rate both Caroli­nas in his long-term in­fras­truc­tural plan for the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Tep­per at­tended a Pan­thers “Roar­ing Riot” fan base tail­gate and toured his old neigh­bor­hood of East Lib­erty on Thurs­day, and met with his old co­work­ers in the Steel­ers or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Tep­per was a mi­nor­ity share­holder in the Steel­ers’ or­ga­ni­za­tion from 2009 un­til his $ 2.25 bil­lion cash-pur­chase of the Pan­thers this year re­quired him to sell his stake.

While his last visit to his old or­ga­ni­za­tion in the pre­sea­son was joy­ous, this visit was more somber for Tep­per.

He and the Pan­thers vis­ited the Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh’s Squir­rel Hill neigh­bor­hood, which was the site of a tragic mass-shoot­ing hate-crime that left 11 peo­ple dead in late Oc­to­ber.

Tep­per grew up just a few miles from Tree of Life, and knew peo­ple who at­tended the syn­a­gogue per­son­ally, in­clud­ing, he said, two of the vic­tims. Ce­cil and David Rosen­thal were broth­ers of for­mer Steel­ers com­mu­nity re­la­tions di­rec­tor Michele Rosen­thal. Many mem­bers of the or­ga­ni­za­tion at­tended the view­ing, a spokesman for the Steel­ers con­firmed.

“That was some­thing,” said Tep­per of vis­it­ing the syn­a­gogue. He grew emo­tional. “There are a lot of con­nec­tions. The Steel­ers used to have a pub­li­cre­la­tions per­son whose two broth­ers, two men­tally chal­lenged broth­ers in their 50s. They called them ‘The Boys.’

“I ac­tu­ally found out this morn­ing … They used to greet ev­ery­body at the doors (of the syn­a­gogue). And I think one of the broth­ers might have died when he was say­ing ‘Hello’ to the shooter. It’s pretty up­set­ting. … There was an­other guy, a doc­tor that my brother-in-law was (with) in res­i­dency in the med­i­cal school down here.

“I ac­tu­ally lived, I had a girl­friend for four years who lived a block away from that syn­a­gogue. I lived three blocks away when I went to grad school (at Carnegie Mel­lon). One of my best friends got mar­ried in that syn­a­gogue. … That was some­thing.”

Tep­per and the Pan­thers left flow­ers at the site.

“With these flow­ers, we ex­tend our deep­est sym­pa­thies to the Tree of Life con­gre­ga­tion in Pitts­burgh,” the team tweeted on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

Quar­ter­back Cam New­ton wore cleats that hon­ored the vic­tims and the syn­a­gogue as he warmed up be­fore the game. They were painted with a Star of David and the words “ha­tred can­not weaken a city of steel.”

Jour­dan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jour­dan­ro­drigue

DAVID T. FOSTER III dt­fos­ter@char­lot­teob­server.com

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