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    Panthers owner David Tepper is worth $13 billion

Taxpayer millions help the Carolina Panthers

Team needs new I-77 interchange for HQ, training center

By RICK BRUNDRETT
Special to the Chronicle

If only the Carolina Panthers could win as easily as they get taxpayer money.

Last month, Washington awarded the SC Department of Transportation nearly $34.6 million to build a new I-77 interchange.

It will be near the Rock Hill site of the Panthers’ proposed headquarters and training facility.

The grant is $10.6 million more than a federal grant that SCDOT sought last year but didn’t receive.

The total estimated cost of the project has skyrocketed.

It, jumped to $88.5 million from $50 million in last year’s grant application.

At that time it was $10 million more than initial estimates.

Records show that SCDOT in February applied for a $39.5 million grant.

It would require the SC Department of Commerce to kick in a $40 million match.

The match was $15 million more than the state’s promised share in last year’s unsuccessful grant application.

Commerce is flush with money:

As of Tuesday, the agency has $123.2 million, according to the state Comptroller General’s Office.

Under the grant application,Rock Hill would contribute $1 million to the interchange project.

The Charlotte-based Panthers would give $8 million – less than 10% of the total estimated cost.

The NFL team is owned by billionaire David Tepper.

He was ranked this year by Forbes.com as the world’s 101st richest person with a net worth of $13 billion.

The new interchange is a key part of the Panthers’ planned move to South Carolina.

Gov. Henry McMaster last year convinced state lawmakers to pass a bill extending job tax credits to the Panthers.

The York County Council approved $225 million in property tax cut incentives to cover the Panthers' infrastructure costs.

The state already has spent about $350,000 on preliminary engineering for “rapid deployment” of the interchange project.

Under state law, this doesn’t require SCDOT to select the lowest bidder.

Project cost numbers aren’t the only official figures that have been massaged over the past year.

The grant application estimates the Panthers’ planned move will create 1,794 jobs over about 9.5 years.

The vast majority of those jobs will be created by development of 1.4 million square feet of commercial space at the 234-acre site.

But we found that an estimated 7,000 new jobs – about 5,600 more than the latest projection – would be created with the additional commercial space.

The University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business said that information provided by the Panthers showed the team would move 150 employees, including players, coaches and management staff, to Rock Hill.

The study noted that 60 players are expected to “reside in South Carolina for a minimum of 6 months each year.”

The latest grant application contends the Panthers, LPL Financial, which provides services to financial professionals, and the Lash Group, a patient-support services business are “creating over 12,000 new jobs in the Rock Hill-Fort Mill area.

In an email response, LPL Financial spokeswoman Rachel White said the company had 2,151 employees in Fort Mill as of Dec. 31.

The Lash Group didn’t respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Lash brought 1,200 employees to its new Fort Mill headquarters in 2016, with plans to double its workforce by this year.

As for the Panthers’ on-the-field history, the team has logged a total of 195 wins and 204 losses during regular seasons since it started playing in 1995.

It ended last year at the bottom of its division with a 5-11 record.

How many games will be played this coming season is uncertain with covid-19.

Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org

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