ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) -Governor Henry McMaster made a big announcement Wednesday morning that many had speculated would be coming for months.
More than 24 state leaders and members of the Carolina Panthers organization met at the Governor’s Mansion in Columbia, SC Wednesday morning. McMaster said in a press conference that Carolina Panthers Owner David Tepper was there and expressed interest in moving football operations to South Carolina.
“They have expressed interest in potentially moving 150 employees including the following into South Carolina,” McMaster said.
The Governor went on to say that the 150 employees would include players, coaches, training staff, senior and mid-level management people, legal, accounting, human resources, information technology, analytics, communications, front and back-office positions and a ground crew site.
The annual payroll for federal tax purposes of the employees that would be relocated is estimated to be at least $190 million a year, according to McMaster.
The move would include constructing new practice facilities, parking areas, a state-of-the-art sports medicine facility in partnership with Atrium Health, a hotel and convention space and retail spaces.
It is estimated to be a $150-million-dollar investment over the next 4 years.
“It truly is a great day in South Carolina, with the news that not if, but when the Panthers will move their facility to South Carolina,” Senator Harvey Peeler (R-District 14) said.
Wednesday, members of the South Carolina House and Senate introduced companion legislations that would offer job tax credits to professional sports teams. Representative Gary Simrill (R-District 46) says it offers the same tax credits that other companies get when relocating to South Carolina. Since this would be the first professional sports team to move to South Carolina, the current law did not include this type of company.
“So this gives us the opportunity and the venue to have pro sports teams as part of the fabric of South Carolina,” Representative Simrill said.
“I’m excited about us moving into this area because it’s something we don’t have in South Carolina today,” Senator Hugh Leatherman/R-District 31.
The House bill reads as follows:
A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 12-6-3360, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO THE JOB TAX CREDIT, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR A PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM; TO AMEND SECTION 4-9-30, RELATING TO THE DESIGNATION OF POWERS UNDER THE ALTERNATE FORMS OF GOVERNMENT, SO AS TO PROHIBIT THE LEVY OF COUNTY LICENSE FEES AND TAXES ON A PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM; TO AMEND SECTION 5-7-30, RELATING TO POWERS OF A MUNICIPALITY, SO AS TO PROHIBIT THE LEVY OF A BUSINESS LICENSE TAX ON A PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM; AND BY ADDING SECTION 5-3-20 SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT THE REAL PROPERTY OWNED BY A PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM MAY NOT BE ANNEXED BY A MUNICIPALITY WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM.
Both versions of the bill were referred to committee.
It is unclear what specific locations Tepper is considering for the potential move. McMaster said the owner was looking at both York and Lancaster Counties as potential sites.
Rock Hill City Mayor John Gettys tells WBTV he was contacted by the Panthers organization about a potential move to Rock Hill.
“Where else would you go but Football City, USA,” Gettys said. “I’m sure they’ve scouted out two to three places, my hope is its somewhere with great visibility and I’m sure it will be, but where that is we’ll just wait to see where they choose.”
Representative Simrill says it will be up to David Tepper to decide the final location, but Simrill believes York County will have an edge over Lancaster County due to its location to the interstate.
“South Carolina and North Carolina where Mecklenburg meets York County is the best infrastructure,” Simrill said.
Simrill added that Rock Hill has already made a major dent in growing sports tourism with success at Manchester Meadows, Cherry Park, The Velodrome and BMX Parks and soon the indoor sports facility being built at Knowledge Park.
“Destination Tourism is what York County is all about, this just adds a crown jewel to that,” Simrill said.
McMaster says Tepper is also considering locations in Lancaster County. Lancaster County Manager Steve Willis tells WBTV he contacted the Department of Commerce several months ago when it was rumored that Tepper was considering a move across the state line. Willis says Lancaster County expressed interest in being considered but had not heard anything more.
Economic Development Director of Lancaster County Jamie Gilbert also told WBTV he had not been in contact with anyone inside the Panthers organization but is thrilled at the opportunity of being considered.
Local leaders in both counties said if chosen, it would be a monumental transformation for the community. Governor Henry McMaster said the move would be magnetic for other companies to relocate nearby.
Campaign Manager for Congressman Ralph Norman, Austin Livingston, told WBTV’s Kristi O’Connor that Norman had a meeting at Panthers headquarters on Tuesday, February 5th in Charlotte. Livingston did not have information on who Norman met with or what was discussed.