Panthers eye I-77 Rock Hill site for practice facility

ROCK HILL, S.C. — The Carolina Panthers appear to have narrowed their options for a new South Carolina headquarters and practice facility to a megasite in Rock Hill, according to sources. The team expressed interest in being near Interstate 77 and having space for retail, restaurants, a hotel and a sports medicine facility.

The quiet community of Hutchison Place borders I-77. There are trees and large lots, and on the south end of the neighborhood, there is nothing but woods and fields. Don Lanning retired from Duke Energy and now lives in Hutchinson Place.

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He said having the Panthers as new neighbors would be thrilling.

"We're excited. Things are sort of low-key in this neighborhood, so that's the biggest thing since sliced bread," Lanning said.

On Friday, Chopper 9 Skyzoom flew over the large, wooded area, which is bordered by the interstate, Eden Terrace and Anderson Road. Sources said the location is the NFL team's top pick for a new practice facility. Residents told Channel 9 they've seen surveyors around the property within the last month.

The team has told the state it wants to bring 150 jobs and a multimillion-dollar investment. Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys said he wouldn't commit to a specific site but said they're waiting on lawmakers to help seal the deal with a tax-break package.

"I didn't hear Columbia object when Boeing came in, and they gave them incentives, and they didn't object when BMW came in, and they gave them incentives,” Gettys said. “So, you wonder, now, ‘Why would there be any problem when something comes to our area?’"

The mayor said he has had more conversations with the Panthers since Channel 9 interviewed him about the topic two weeks ago.

Over the last decade, Rock Hill has made a name for itself as a center for sports tourism.

City leaders have seen the growth of major events, such as BMX races and soccer and softball tournaments.

If the city can land the Panthers' headquarters, it would fit right in with that vision.

“This shows the vision of city leaders who've worked on this (since) long before my time," Gettys said.

The Professional Sports Team Incentives Bill, which passed the South Carolina House 90-25, is in the state Senate. The bill could be up for a full vote next week.