COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) - Chief Operating Officer of the Carolina Panthers Mark Hart says the new Panthers practice facility could be open for business as soon as August 2022, if everything goes on as scheduled.
Hart was the keynote speaker at the I-77 Alliance summit in Columbia, S.C. Thursday. The I-77 Alliance is made up of five counties that connect Columbia, S.C. to Charlotte, N.C.
Hart told the crowd they expect to break ground on the multi-million-dollar development in Rock Hill, S.C. in April 2020. Hart confirmed the site in Rock Hill that many have speculated owner David Tepper had chosen for months.
The roughly 200-acre site is bordered by Eden Terrace, Mt. Gallant Road, and I-77. Hart compared what Tepper envisions to an upgraded version of the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facilities in Frisco, Texas.
“What is everyone else doing in the NFL?,” Hart said. “let’s steal it and make it bigger and better. That’s his mantra: Bigger, better, smarter.”
Phase one of the development will include the Panthers practice facilities, team headquarters, and Atrium Health’s sports performance orthopedic center. Hart said the development would serve as more than just a football facility.
“In business 365 days a year: concerts, festivals, entertainment,”’ Hart described.
Hart says there were flaws with the site in Rock Hill that he was not a fan of including traffic along Dave Lyle Boulevard, limited access to the land from I-77 and a stretch of power lines over the property.
Hart says they are working with Duke Energy to move the power lines. Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham is working to secure $25 million in a U.S. Department of Transportation grant to fund a new interchange off of I-77 that will lead directly to the Panthers practice site.
Graham told members of the I-77 Alliance that the state of South Carolina would match the federal grant. WBTV asked Graham how confident he was in being able to secure the funding for the interchange.
“I feel confident that we’re going to be a pain the a** if they say no,” Graham said.
Graham told the crowd the Panthers move would be a game changer for the economy in York County.
“Because this place is going to be a destination, people will come from all over the country. Not just people who enjoy football, it’s a place where a lot of things are happening,” Graham said.