CHARLOTTE, NC (Katherine Peralta, Jourdan Rodrigue, and Cassie Cope/The Charlotte Observer) - Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper continues to take steps to boost the team’s infrastructure and development growth. The latest move came on Wednesday, when the team confirmed Tepper’s hire of Mark Hart to be vice president of development.
Hart formerly held the same role with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and in August oversaw proposals to fund capital developments for Heinz Field and other Pittsburgh sports facilities using tax dollars, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Tepper, formerly a Steelers minority owner, also hired Panthers team president Tom Glick in August. Both positions will be key to the capital and infrastructural development of the organization, as well as the brand expansion of the Panthers.
Such development will likely include both North and South Carolina, and Tepper has made facility improvements a priority in the short term, particularly for the team’s practice facilities.
Several recent media reports have indicated that the Panthers are honing in on sites in York County, S.C., for new practice facilities. But two local officials contacted by the Observer say they have not heard from the team.
Tepper may already be looking to bolster relations with South Carolina: Gov. Henry McMaster announced this month that Tepper would be one one of 15 honorary co-chairs of his inaugural committee.
‘Open for business’
On Wednesday, the Charleston Post & Courier reported that the Panthers are planning to build a team headquarters building and practice facility just over the state line.
The Panthers, however, have not yet reached out to York County Economic Development, according to the agency, which oversees incentives and recruiting businesses to the region. A Panthers spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said late Wednesday afternoon that he had spoken with Glick, who called the report “just speculation” and that the organization remains in the evaluation process.
But the York agency “would be interested in talking” with the team, said the group’s director, David Swenson. The group worked with the Charlotte Knights when that team had its stadium in York County, as well as the Charlotte Hornets when the team had its practice facilities in Fort Mill, S.C.
“We’re open for business,” Swenson said.
Britt Blackwell, chairman of the York County Council, also said he has not spoken with anyone with the Panthers. “We do everything we can to recruit business from throughout the nation, and certainly welcome any business from Charlotte to come to York County,” Blackwell said.
Just south of the North Carolina state line sits a vast amount of land that’s ripe for development, such as the 282-acre site of the former Knights baseball stadium now owned by Charlotte retailer Cato Corp.
And a number of local businesses have chosen York County thanks to incentives and the area’s business-friendly climate.
In May, RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corp. announced plans to relocate its headquarters from Charlotte to Fort Mill in exchange for a state incentives package. Others that have made such a move in recent years include Movement Mortgage and LPL Financial.
Upgrades, and both Carolinas
The Panthers’ practice facilities are well-behind those of other teams in the NFL, in part because they are outdoors.
The Panthers have three uncovered practice fields that are a short walk from Bank of America Stadium in uptown Charlotte. Weather conditions have forced the team to adjust its practice schedule on multiple occasions this season.
“I will be very surprised if we aren’t playing indoors before the end of next summer, for practice somehow or another,“ Tepper said in November.
While a bubble over a practice field could be a short-term fix, it’s more likely that Tepper has a new, state-of-the-art multi-use practice facility in mind for the future, the Observer has reported.
Tepper also has stressed the importance of including both North and South Carolina in development plans.
A practice facility could also provide space for team offices including operations and communications, and player and employee housing.
Upgrades to the Panthers stadium are also likely under Tepper, who stresses the importance of the fan experience and has incorporated technology into other building projects where he has held a stake, including the new Tepper Quadrangle at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Charlotte will likely continue to be home to the Panthers stadium even if a new practice facility is developed in another county or state.
That would mirror the setup of other teams such as the Arizona Cardinals. The team has a multi-use stadium and entertainment district in Glendale, Ariz., but they practice and are headquartered in Tempe, Ariz.