Termination of Panthers Rock Hill deal shocked SC executives
Emails show that the South Carolina Secretary of Commerce, at Rock Hill’s request, planned to visit the training center site with the Panthers’ chief operating officer on March 8.
ROCK HILL, SC – The Carolina Panthers halted work on their planned $800 million training facility in Rock Hill the day before South Carolina Commerce Secretary Harry Lightsey, local leaders and Chief of the team’s operations were to visit the site, according to recently obtained state documents. .
Commerce Department emails and text messages obtained by WCNC Charlotte via a public records request suggest that state economic development officials were caught off guard by the Panthers’ March 7 decision to suspend the project. In fact, at the request of the City of Rock Hill, Lightsey had planned to spend time at the site on the morning of March 8.
“Lord Lordy!” Assistant Secretary of Commerce Ashely Teasdel wrote in an email response the evening of March 7 about the canceled tour.
Text messages reveal Gov. Henry McMaster spoke with Panthers owner David Tepper in mid-April, six days before Tepper’s GT Real Estate Holdings terminated its deals with Rock Hill.
Click here to sign up for the daily Wake Up Charlotte newsletter
“Tepper is meeting with the city and county next week,” Commerce Department Director of Government Affairs Mark Hendrick sent several people on April 13 in an effort to deliver the message to Lightsey. “(The governor’s chief of staff) views this as a net positive. I agree.”
This message came a day after McMaster Chief of Staff Trey Walker texted: “I have an update on the Panthers. Not good.”
On the same day, McMaster publicly spoke about the hiatus.
“I’ve had a number of conversations with (Tepper) over the months but now they’re at an impasse…Hopefully they’ve got it all sorted out because we’re ready to go,” he said. declared on April 12. “…The state has done its part and we want to encourage everyone to resolve differences and get moving.”
On the morning of April 19, Walker warned that he had just learned that the Panthers intended to “unplug the project and terminate all contracts”.
“Bad news about the Panthers coming this morning,” he texted.
Tepper Sports and Entertainment, citing its $170 million investment in the project, previously reported that the City of Rock Hill had failed to deliver on its end of the bargain. WCNC Charlotte later found that the city failed to secure $225 million in bonds to pay for roads, sidewalks, and other public infrastructure at the site.
When Tepper’s company ended its agreements with Rock Hill in April, the team said the city defaulted on funding public infrastructure in February 2021 and as a result the company issued a notice. default in March 2022.
The Department of Commerce declined to comment for this story.