ROCK HILL, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — After weeks of silence, the Panthers have terminated project agreements with the City of Rock Hill, citing failure to issue bonds or provide funding for the team’s $800 million training facility, according to a statement released by GT Real Estate.
“On February 26, 2021, the City of Rock Hill became delinquent on their obligation to fund the public infrastructure. Despite our persistent efforts throughout 2021, the City of Rock Hill failed to issue the bonds or provide the funding for the public infrastructure for the project,” GTRE said in a released statement.
GTRE went on to state, “On March 18, 2022, GTRE issued a default notice and the City did not cure its default within the prescribed 30-day cure period. It is unfortunate that some recently decided to conduct a misguided, destructive public relations campaign to obscure their failures.”
“We have sent notices to the City to formally terminate the previous agreements. Accordingly, we are prepared to sit down with the City and other interested parties to discuss the significant challenges ahead.” GTRE said.
For weeks, Tepper Sports has said 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.
“We knew there was some tension in the room,” says York County councilman William “Bump” Roddey. “Well, I think it just comes full circle. You know, I knew then Rock Hill had an issue financially, I know now Rock Hill has an issue financially and the entire city, county and state knows that Rock Hill has an issue financially because of the Panthers solidifying that by putting them in default terminating the agreement solely based on their inability to secure that financing that was promised to them.”
While Rock Hill city leaders essentially went into hiding, York County stepped in to offer an alternate plan to try to save the deal. Councilman Guffey said the county offered to give up tax revenue on the facility and the headquarters for 30 years if Tepper continued the 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.
With the announcement of this termination, 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.
Statement sent to Queen City News from SC Gov. McMaster:
“Today’s announcement by the Panthers is a disappointment, as we had hoped they would be a part of South Carolina’s record-breaking, booming economy.
In 2021, we broke a decade’s worth of records for job recruitment, investment, and expansion, announcing 18,000 new jobs and $5.6 billion in capital investment. And our state government’s finances are in the strongest condition ever, with the largest budget surpluses, the largest rainy-day reserves, and the lowest debt in our history.
South Carolina is winning, and we intend to keep winning. The best is yet to come!”
Statement sent to Queen City News from the City of Rock Hill:
“The City of Rock Hill joined state and county leaders and the greater community in welcoming the Panthers to Rock Hill and shared in the excitement over Mr. Tepper’s idea of “two states, one team.” Over the past three years, City staff and local elected officials have invested countless hours negotiating agreements and working to perform the City’s part of the agreements to make this a successful development for both the Panthers and the Rock Hill community.
We are disappointed with the current dispute and with the decision of the Panthers to halt the Rock Hill development, thus undermining the exhaustive efforts of the City of Rock Hill, State of South Carolina, York County, Rock Hill Schools, key landowners, and the entire region. It was and remains our intention to continue negotiating in good faith while protecting the interests of our taxpayers. In fact, in the past few weeks we have attempted to meet with the Panthers on numerous occasions to no avail.
The City met all obligations required under the agreements. The City did not commit to provide unlimited City backstop, but instead agreed to use its best reasonable efforts to issue bonds to be repaid by the increase in the tax revenues generated from development of the site which protects the City’s taxpayers and the City’s favorable financial position.
As set forth in the parties’ finance agreement, the City was not required – to pledge, use or contribute any City funds, revenues or assets to the repayment of the Bonds beyond the Panthers Fund Proceeds, Reserve Funds derived from proceeds of the Bonds, together with capitalized interest, if any, or [municipal improvement district (MID)] assessments imposed in accordance with the MID Governing Documents; and … the City’s reasonable best efforts to issue Bonds shall not be construed as an assurance or guarantee by the City that there will be a buyer for any of the Bonds.
As Mayor John Gettys has said,
Our community embraced the Panthers and welcomed them to South Carolina. Be assured the City of Rock Hill did everything to make this project a success and has not defaulted on any of our obligations…that is not how we do business.
The City does not believe in addressing, through a public back-and-forth, its differences with another party. We are encouraged the Panthers may now be willing to meet and look forward to resolving any and all outstanding issues so that we can together fulfill the promises implicit in the “two states, one team” ethos. From our standpoint, we are prepared to meet as early as today. Accordingly, this will be the last public statement from the City regarding the most recent misleading and erroneous statements from the Panthers.”
Statement sent to Queen City News from York County:
“It is disheartening to learn today that the Carolina Panthers have terminated their original agreements with the City of Rock Hill. However, York County remains optimistic that this project can still move forward. The Panthers have expressed a willingness to continue discussions with all parties involved and face the challenges ahead. York County expresses that same willingness.”
Statement to Queen City News from Senator Richard “Dick” Harpoolitilian:
“Well, you know a guy doesn’t make $16 billion dollars without being a self-centered, egotistical, narcissist, so I’m not surprised at all. This is a, I would say an ‘I told you so’ moment but the fact that he had ripped off the state and put us in a position where we had built an $80 million interchange to nowhere, the people of York County and the city of York have been disadvantaged and he’s just going to walk away. I mean that’s what arrogant narcissists do. I have full confidence in Harry Lightsey III, who’s running the chamber of commerce again not to let this kind of chicanery happen again obviously the governor got hoodwinked by Tepper and his director of commerce.”