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Carolina Panthers Move Could be a ‘Huge Boon’ to Rock Hill

Panther statue outside stadium.
Paul Brennan [CC0 1.0] via PublicDomainPictures.net

The Charlotte-based Carolina Panthers could be moving their training facilities and operations south of the border, to York County. The team is looking at a former industrial park just off I-77, among other locations in Fort Mill and neighboring Chester County.

To do so would require the state to pony up as much as $120 million in incentives – something not all members of the South Carolina Legislature have gotten behind – and to do that would require the State Senate to pass a bill that has already passed in the House.

State lawmakers are still hammering out whether it’s worth giving the Carolina Panthers $120 million in state incentives to bring the team’s training facilities across the border from Charlotte to York County.

A recent impact assessment report from the state Department of Commerce says those incentives could lead to $200 million in direct investment in South Carolina, and almost that much in payroll taxes – all money that would benefit the state.

The City of Rock Hill, with an established sports tourism infrastructure long in place, is the clear frontrunner in a potential Panthers move to South Carolina. In an impact assessment report earlier this month, the state Department of Commerce concluded that a Panthers relocation to Rock hill could lead to $200 million in direct investment in South Carolina, and almost that much in payroll taxes.

All of that money would go directly to the state. But Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys says the move would bring a lot of money to the city, through various taxes and fees that it would collect – taxes on food, lodging, and permits, to name a few. The money would come from visitors and fans who stay in Rock Hill and dine or shop while they’re in town as well as from players who move to Rock Hill to be closer to the new facility and spend their money in town like anyone else.

“The economic impact of what the Panthers would do would be a boon to our community,” Gettys says. “There’s no question about that.”

The state Department of Commerce also concluded in its impact assessment that a Panthers facility in South Carolina could generate as many as 150 new jobs. That doesn’t mean the organization would come in and hire 50 people straight from Rock Hill, Gettys says. However:

“Over time, people retire, they take other jobs and you hire new people, so over time we’d see more jobs coming from our community into the Panthers organization than are now,” he says. “I know two folks from Rock Hill that work for the Panthers now; travel up to Charlotte, and have been with them for many years.”

Gettys says he hopes the state’s lawmakers who are not in favor of the panthers coming down from North Carolina realize what they’ve got in front of them.

“It’s really a game changer, I think, for a lot of things, should we be fortunate enough and should those in Columbia be smart enough to recognize the true benefit that this brings,” he says. “This is a gift horse, not a Trojan Horse.”