CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper talks a lot about regionalization.
The Panthers mantra is two states, one team, after all. Tepper recently got the green light from South Carolina lawmakers to build a new headquarters campus in Rock Hill. The team’s stadium will remain uptown, Tepper has said.
And speaking in Pittsburgh Wednesday to a group of visiting government and business leaders from Charlotte, Tepper articulated another way he’d like to expand the team’s geographic reach: A high-speed train connecting Charlotte with Winston-Salem and the Raleigh-Durham area.
Tepper said the state-owned trains, which Amtrak runs, ought to operate high-speed services that would allow, for instance, fans in Raleigh to get to Charlotte in under two hours. It’d be similar to what runs through the Northeast Corridor, from Boston down to Washington, D.C.
“If there’s something that people in this building should do... if you can get that connectivity, to have an hour-and-a-half or 2-hour ride to Raleigh... and 45 minutes to Winston-Salem... nothing would take off like that,” Tepper said during a presentation at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Tepper was addressing a delegation of more than 150 business and political leaders who traveled from Charlotte to Pittsburgh Wednesday morning for the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s three-day intercity visit. The purpose of the annual visit is for local leaders to learn about another city’s growth strategies.
Tepper’s roots in Pittsburgh run deep.
The hedge fund billionaire grew up in a small brick home on the city’s east side. He attended the University of Pittsburgh and later Carnegie Mellon for his MBA. Tepper has given more than $120 million to the research university’s business school, which now bears his name.
The new business school is also where Tepper spoke with Brian Leary of Crescent Communities as part of the visit by Charlotte officials. The trip comes nearly one year after Tepper’s $2.275 billion deal to buy the Panthers closed.
Since his first day as owner, Tepper has talked about ways to expand the team’s reach to appeal to a broader swath of fans. In his introductory press conference last July, Tepper mentioned that the land around the stadium could benefit from the future Gateway Station, which broke ground last year.
Having high-speed service that goes between Charlotte and the Triangle and Triad, Tepper said, would benefit communities outside Charlotte.
“The potential for that transportation and what it could bring to both regions is so tremendous that it would benefit the whole state,” Tepper said. “You’d want to buy Winston-Salem real estate.”
North Carolina has already been investing in the rail that runs through the state. In early 2014, the federal government gave North Carolina $535 million to upgrade rail lines throughout the state. Construction has been ongoing and has resulted in the disruption of some services, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported last June.
It is unclear whether a high-speed rail is under serious consideration by N.C. lawmakers.
Tepper said moving forward he hopes for more collaboration with lawmakers in Raleigh for a possible high-speed train and other projects. It’s not known whether Tepper will request state funds to renovate Bank of America Stadium, for instance.
“Everybody would just benefit. It’s a question of getting everyone together. And it’s a question of having a common goal,” Tepper said.
In past years’ inter-city visits, Charlotte leaders have gone to Atlanta, Nashville and Miami, gleaning lessons from each.
In Miami, the delegation got a taste of the public murals splashed across the city’s building facades in neighborhoods such as Wynwood. Charlotte has adopted the practice – murals have been added to buildings such as Stonewall Station and the Peculiar Rabbit in Plaza Midwood.
This year’s trip includes over a dozen government officials – county commissioners, city council members, the mayor and others – who are attending the event for a discounted rate of $3,000 per person. The regular rate is just under $3,500, according to the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.