Now that state backing for the project is in place, the Carolina Panthers are closer to moving forward with a new South Carolina headquarters. The sheer scope of the project will make it notable among NFL training complexes/headquarters, but it also marks the first step in what will likely be a long-term bolstering of facilities by the Panthers under owner David Tepper.
On Monday, South Carolina lawmakers approved the final version of a bill that gives the Panthers $115 million in tax breaks for developing a new training complex and headquarters in the state. South Carolina governor Henry McMaster, a proponent of the project, is expected to sign the bill into law, clearing the way for a major facility plan from the Panthers.
Under the scope that has been detailed thus far, the Panthers are expected to purchase up to 200 acres in Rock Hill, located just south of Charlotte. The land will give the Panthers room for sprawling complex that includes offices, a sports medicine center, and two practice facilities, with one an indoor venue with up to 10,000 seats.
Discussion among South Carolina lawmakers leading to approval of the tax breaks was contentious at times, with some doubting that a positive economic outlook for the plan could be realized. For those that backed the bill, however, the hope is that the complex will not only provide an economic boost on its own, but also lead to more development in the surrounding area. To support that effort, officials say the state, federal government, and Rock Hill will spend a combined $40 million on a new Interstate Highway 77 interchange that will serve the Panthers’ complex and any new development that surrounds it in the future.
Though its exact economic implications will not be known for years, the scope of the complex is expected to be elaborate by NFL standards. Of those that have been developed thus far by other organizations, the Dallas Cowboys’ The Star in Frisco, TX stands as one comparable example of what the Panthers are reportedly considering. Originally opening in 2016, The Star consist of 91 acres, with a 12,000-seat indoor venue among its amenities and features mixed-use development that includes an Omni hotel, retail, and restaurants.
Perhaps most significantly for the organization, planning for the headquarters will represent the first big step in the Panthers’ long-term push for upgraded facilities. For now, it appears that Tepper is focused on a major renovation to Uptown Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium rather than the construction of a new venue. It will likely take time for renovation plans to take shape, but upgrades to existing spaces and the creation of new fan areas—with a particular emphasis on gathering spaces and premium areas—along with modernized player facilities will likely be part of that mix.
It is worth noting that any plans for upgrading Bank of America Stadium may extend beyond the NFL, as the Panthers have made efforts to gauge fan interest in a potential MLS expansion club. Adding MLS to the mix could, in theory, boost the case for Bank of America Stadium renovations, but where Charlotte ultimately stacks up in future MLS expansion plans remain to be seen. That is perhaps why the potential for MLS was not part of Tepper’s pitch to South Carolina officials on the upcoming training complex/headquarters, which was focused more on solving long-term needs for the Panthers.
Having a new training complex/headquarters in South Carolina and a renovated stadium in Uptown Charlotte would reflect Tepper’s stated goal of making the Panthers a franchise that serves fans throughout The Carolinas. While it will take time for stadium plans to be realized, the latest steps toward a new complex have put one part of that plan into motion.
The Panthers are seeking to break ground on the complex this year. It is expected to open in 2022.