Could taxpayer tab for Panthers HQ rise from $160M?

Could taxpayer tab for Panthers HQ rise from $160M?

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper stood in front of a crowd of football fans in Rock Hill last week and promised to build a team headquarters that will make the city proud. Tepper and a flock of South Carolina politicians, including Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, celebrated the imminent partnership between the NFL team and the state as the governor signed into law an incentives bill for sports teams.

Estimates of taxpayers’ investment run in the range of $160 million: $115 million to $120 million in job tax credits and grants, repaid over 15 years as employment is verified, plus $40 million for an interchange connecting Interstate 77 with the 200-acre Panthers’ headquarters site. Based on the Charlotte Business Journal’s recent interviews with Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys and Bobby Hitt, the state commerce secretary, the $160 million estimate could go higher than that.

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Remember that negotiations could not begin until the incentives bill passed, meaning the framework discussed in recent months may or may not undergo changes. And remember, too, that one of the big selling points of the team headquarters project is its ability to generate related private investment. Panthers executives have estimated the full buildout in the range of $1 billion — meaning four times as much investment by other groups as the team’s estimated $200 million construction tab. The team headquarters will account for 30 to 40 acres of the site, or roughly 20% of the property.

“It’s been represented as being a training facility,” Hitt told CBJ. “There’s more to it. There’s also a health-care component; there are other companies that will be part of this complex that are not even in the discussion and are not being incentivized as yet by the state — (they) might be incentivized by the state in another time.”

During a recent interview with Gettys at the mayor’s office in Rock Hill, he hinted at the possibility of additional public investment by city government, perhaps for park and recreation areas or site improvements.

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“There may be some opportunities where financing needs to be put in for some limited public investment, but with that will come public access,” Gettys said. “So that development agreement (with the Panthers) will have to spell all that out.”

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