Panthers ask York County for help after Rock Hill fails to secure infrastructure funding

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Carolina Panthers Chief Operating Officer Mark Hart warns that funding for infrastructure is unfulfilled after the city of Rock Hill missed two deadlines to secure $225 million worth of bonds.

The Panthers are in the process of building a state-of-the-art team headquarters and practice facility across 240 acres in Rock Hill.

>> Click here to read the letter sent to York County Manager David Hudspeth

The team did not comment on the situation.

In a May 6 letter to York County Manager David Hudspeth, Hart said the team continues to make progress on construction of the facility, but the funding for infrastructure remains at a crossroads.

“We are concerned without county assistance, the city will not secure the $225,000,000 of bond proceeds contemplated by the Interlocal Agreement,” Hart wrote.

According to the letter, bonds were to be issued by Oct. 31, 2020. The deadline was later pushed back to Feb. 26, 2021. To date, they haven’t been issued. Hart asked York County to engage with the city and developer and consider assisting to secure the necessary bond proceeds.

“Not only do we believe that the county’s participation ensures achieving the required funds but by participating, the bonds will benefit the taxpayers with an earlier return on investment,” he wrote.

Hart warned without a path of funding, “there is a high-risk necessary infrastructure objectives will not be met” and infrastructure “could be overburdened.”

Hart noted they haven’t issued the city a default notice and are committed to being good faith partners.

Rock Hill City Manager David Vehaun was contacted via email Friday morning but declined an interview but claimed to be in compliance with the Panthers.

“Although I cannot comment on correspondence that does not involve the city, I am happy to report that the city is in complete compliance with the terms of the current agreements with the Panthers,” he wrote.

When Eyewitness News Reporter Joe Bruno responded with a copy of Hart’s letter and asked if he disputes it, Vehaun did not respond.

Hudspeth did not return a request for comment. A spokesperson for York County said that council members will discuss potential options during executive session on Monday.

“York County is considering the request but has made no decision at this time,” spokeswoman Trish Startup said.

Chairwoman Christi Cox confirmed the county will look at options.

“We have received a request from the Panther organization, and our council will meet with our attorneys and county management to evaluate the options,” Cox said. “At this point there is nothing more to comment.”

One of the project’s biggest supporters, York County Councilman Bump Roddey, says the Panthers “deserve better from the city of Rock Hill.” He worries the city’s financial situation will harm the deal and taxpayers.

“$225 million is a huge sum of money but you have to be in position to deliver what you actually sign the agreement for,” he said. “It is my belief the balance sheet of Rock Hill doesn’t really support being able to put their name and city’s finances on the line to secure such a loan.”

Roddey describes the Panthers as a world class organization with the opportunity to dramatically change Rock Hill and York County. He hopes a deal can struck to make the team feel at home.

“If it comes to the point that York County has to step in and basically bail Rock Hill out so they are not held liable for not following through on the agreement then I think we could probably find some support there,” he said. “But it won’t be easy.”

All Rock Hill city council members and the mayor did not respond to a request for comment.

The team headquarters and practice facility are projected to be finished in 2023.

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