Panthers owner David Tepper on the Rock Hill headquarters

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Panthers-Rock Hill saga

Going in-depth with what’s going on behind David Tepper and the Panthers terminating their contract to build their headquarters in Rock Hill.

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For the first time in nearly 16 months, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper addressed the public Wednesday through the media. And among the hottest topics was what happened with the team’s headquarters in Rock Hill.

However, he declined to say much about it.

“We’ve released a statement already, and we will respect the City of Rock Hill’s request to have a back-and-forth about it,” Tepper said.

Last month, Tepper Sports & Entertainment, which represents the Charlotte-based NFL team, stopped construction on the 240-acre property because of a disagreement between the city and the company. Tepper Sports said in a statement in March that Rock Hill has been “unable to contribute (to) fund the construction of the project”.

The Panthers terminated their contract with the City of Rock Hill on April 18.

The TSE’s statement said it was terminating the agreement with the city, and that it was “prepared to sit down with the city and other interested parties to discuss significant challenges ahead.”

Tepper reiterated Wednesday that he will continue to talk with city officials.

When asked by The Charlotte Observer what is next for the Panthers’ headquarters and whether Charlotte makes sense, Tepper said: “Everything makes sense if we can find the right situation.”

Tepper suggested that he be committed to keeping the Panthers in Charlotte and that he liked the stadium’s location.

“It’s the center of two states, the Carolina Panthers, and the most logical place for the Carolina Panthers to be in Charlotte,” he said.

Tepper was also asked about his message to residents of Rock Hill who were disappointed in his decision to move to the city. Tepper said the Panthers will have a presence in South Carolina with training camps and charity events.

“We will be there. We will continue to support the community, “he said, before letting out a laugh. “I’m just laughing about some people in the community what they say about me. But no matter what they say about me, we will be there for the people of Rock Hill, supporting the different fashions in the community. “

Panthers-Rock Hill bond dispute

Since construction stopped, Rock Hill has maintained that it has met all obligations under the agreement.

According to the financial and construction administration agreement between Rock Hill and GT Real Estate Holdings, which represents Tepper Sports & Entertainment in the deal, the city was expected to use its “reasonable best efforts” to issue $ 225 million in bonds by Feb. 26, 2021.

The agreement states that the city’s “reasonable best efforts” will not require Rock Hill to “pledge, use or contribute any funds, revenues or assets” to repay the bonds.

City Manager David Vehaun said at a March City Council meeting that despite several requests by the Panthers, the city insisted it would not “backstop” – or guarantee – the debt.

And the agreement outlines just that.

The agreement states that the city’s “reasonable best efforts” to issue the bonds should not be construed as “an assurance or guarantee by the city that there will be a buyer for any of the bonds.”

However, the agreement also states that the city’s failure to use its “reasonable best efforts” to issue the bonds by Feb. 26, 2021, would result in a default.

On March 18, GT Real Estate Holdings issued a 30-day notice of default to Rock Hill. On Wednesday, Tepper repeated at least five occasions that he’d respected the city’s request for comment on what happened, and referred their statement.

“On February 26, 2021, the City of Rock Hill became delinquent on their obligation to fund the public infrastructure,” a GT Real Estate Holdings spokeswoman said earlier this month. “Throughout our continuing efforts throughout 2021, the City of Rock Hill failed to issue bonds or provide funding for the public infrastructure for the project.”

Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys said at the same March City Council meeting that Rock Hill put forth its best effort “to bring the bonds to market short of risking credit to the city.”

“Any implication by the Panthers that the city didn’t do its absolute and professional best is simply not true,” Gettys said.

York County, Rock Hill agree with Panthers

In April 2020, the Panthers and York County signed off on a tax incentive deal for the Panthers project. Part of that deal, an interlocal agreement between the city and the county, outlined key features of the plan, including an itemized list of $ 225 million in planned public infrastructure at the heart of the default issue.

It had $ 117 million in project-specific costs, plus about $ 20 million for off-site road improvements to serve the site and undetermined transportation needs. A Manchester Park road connection was listed at $ 10 million. The list had more than $ 18 million in contingency funding.

The interlocal agreement allows the city to issue bonds related to the project. The agreement states that bonds are only secured by tax revenue generated from the site each year – including the entire city portion from the site – and not by “a pledge of full faith, credit or taxing power of either the county or the city. “

The agreement also lays out rules for default. It requires 30 days written notice if one party does not meet the terms of the contract, after which the party that provided the notice can file suit against the defaulting partner to hold its end of the agreement.

The interlocal agreement also allows the Panthers to terminate the agreement with 30 days written notice to the county, but financial obligations will remain due at this time. If the team were to make that move, the tax incentive deal would be gone and the site property owner would start paying standard tax rates the following fiscal year.

This story was originally published April 27, 2022 1:01 PM.

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Jonathan M. Alexander is a native of Charlotte. He began covering the Carolina Panthers for the Observer in July 2020 after working at the N&O for seven years, where he covered a variety of beats, including UNC basketball and football, Duke basketball, recruiting, K-12 schools, public safety and town government. General Chat Chat Lounge
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Cailyn Derickson is a city government and politics reporter for The Herald, covering York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Cailyn graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has recently worked at The Pilot and The News and Observer.

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