ROCK HILL, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — It’s been a little over a month since Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper halted construction on the $800 million training facility in Rock Hill.
Tepper Sports says the move came after the city of Rock Hill failed to live up to its end of their deal, where it was supposed to issue bonds for $225 million in taxpayer funding.
“So just shutting down and losing that type of work can really put these businesses out completely,” says York County Councilman Brand Guffey.
While Rock Hill city leaders have gone into hiding, York County stepped in to offer an alternate plan to try to save the deal. Councilman Guffey says the county offered to give up tax revenue on the facility and the headquarters for 30 years if Tepper continued to construction, paying for everything up front with his own money, at a negotiated rate for the remaining properties, something Tepper said in the past he’d never do.
“And it works out better for all because the Panthers will save that money in the long term, and you don’t have to work through inflation or anything of that nature of interest rates rising. I think everyone thought that all it was going to take was us to issue the resolution, the city to issue to a resolution and the Panthers would come to the table,” he said.
He penned a letter with several questions about the facility:
“All that is required for a community to be taken advantage of is for good men to do nothing. I’ve personally taken heat over suspending rules to vote on a resolution that was provided on a Saturday to vote on Monday. I’ve been criticized for supporting an alternative option for Panthers organization. I’ve labored behind the scenes urging the city of Rock Hill to pass a resolution as well. A resolution that we were told would satisfy all parties. I come on here to express my personal opinions, not trying to speak as council as a whole, to show the transparency so many have asked for.
Regardless of Mr. Tepper’s wealth, I have always respected his blue-collar mentality and thought he was a man for the working class. I thought this is a man to model yourself afterwards due to some of his past quotes such as “I was never afraid to go back to Pittsburg and work in the steel mills”. As a kid that grew up in Rock Hill without the wealth that so many had and as a man that now digs in dirt for a living, this was a man to look up to. It appears those values I thought we shared have been tainted by the Wall Street investor mentality. I live by hard work. We rise early, stay late, and come back the next day to do it all again. To this day, my slogan is Get Dirty. If I ever act as not caring for the common man, I could only hope another will call me out as I am right now. I ran my county council race in 2020 as being the blue-collar bulldog but feel as the billionaire is ignoring the calamity of the blue-collar workers in my home. I now run for a seat within the SC house with the same mentality. As I said in my opening sentence, All that is required for a community to be taken advantage of is for good men to do nothing. I firmly believe that and ask that Mr. Tepper, and the Panthers organization simply come to the table to discuss the option they asked us to propose.
Why did myself and other elected officials push so hard to issue a resolution? Everyone has their own reasons but for me it had a lot to do with the families of the local workers on that job site. We did our part to show good faith, hoping to save those jobs. So that all those equipment leases and other contracts wouldn’t be broken. Affording the Panthers organization, the opportunity to truly show that we are two states, one team. I stood in the crowd as a fan, a citizen, and with no political ambition when the deal was signed. I was happy that we had a franchise owner that shared my blue-collar beliefs. I wasn’t involved in that first dealing with the Panthers, but our subsequent efforts were made in good faith. I was constantly defending the argument of “he is just a billionaire throwing around his weight”. I watched as the Tepper family contributed to a park for special needs children in our community, seemed to buy in to what makes our community so great, and continued to lay down their investments throughout. I thought this is a team that is going to give back to our schools, care about the local hard-working families and not screw over our working class. What I have seen since getting on Council is not the organization, I thought it was. The County, City, Schools, and State have all fought hard to do what is best for this community and show that we want the Panthers and Mr Tepper to be a part of it. What have we seen in return? Silence. No response. The Panthers and their owner seem to have forgotten what it means to be a little guy in the business world. Meanwhile I’m questioning, have those local contractors been paid? Will this be a Wall Street deal about saving money or actually taking care of our community that knows dirty hands make the cleanest money? Will we have a road to nowhere? If the facility is not built by 2024, the Panthers stands to lose north of a hundred million in tax credits our state officials worked so hard to get. We won’t have the majority leader in Columbia should they need to come back.
What we have now is a road to nowhere and nothing. We have small businesses struggling, a lack of certainty within our community and the resentment towards the Panthers organization is growing daily. We’ve got an outsider bringing in Wall Street values instead of someone that shares our values of a hard day’s work that so many of us do. I pray that I am wrong but have little faith in a sensible resolution. That crow appears to be coming home to roost. How do York County season ticket holders feel? How do the fans of the franchise we considered our home team feel. How do our small business owners recover from investments made on our future? How do other cities feel about having an irrational actor of the NFL coming to their area? How does Charlotte feel as they negotiate on the terms of their new stadium? How does the brand not suffer anywhere it looks to expand? More questions and more silence! As for me representing the little guy in our community, I will Keep Pounding!”
“I don’t want anyone to think that it’s a threat by any means, but these are questions that you’ve got to look at, I mean look at the NFL as an organization how do they feel about so many teams in so many teams when they complain about deals go bad, and how do they feel about this one?” he said.
Guffey, who owns his own construction company, is concerned the massive project will never get completed.
“We talk about the amount of jobs that are there, but people don’t think about all of the other jobs that go through the sub-contractors that are coming in and out as well,” Guffey said.
The Panthers stand to lose north of $100 million in tax credits in South Carolina if the project isn’t completed by 2024. But the city of Rock Hill, York County, and the state of South Carolina stand to lose much more than that, if they don’t find a way to get this deal done.
And that’s the trust of Panthers fans.