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'From honeymoon to divorce' | SC politicians, residents respond as effort to bring Panthers training facility to Rock Hill ends

WCNC Charlotte learned that York County initiated a court filing on Wednesday morning to make sure Tepper doesn’t sell the Rock Hill site until debts are settled.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — The effort to bring a Carolina Panthers training facility to Rock Hill has officially ended, a spokesperson with GT Real Estate has confirmed to WCNC Charlotte. It comes as GT Real Estate is filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, following the termination of the agreements with the City of Rock Hill.

According to court paperwork, GT Real Estate owes creditors millions of dollars. Among them is York County with a claim of $21 million, as well as Mascaro/Barton Malow, a joint venture construction management group over the site project, with a $26 million claim.

“That fact that David Tepper, a billionaire, thinks it’s okay to walk away and leave the taxpayers of York County with a $21 million bill – that’s just fundamentally wrong," South Carolina senator Michael Johnson said. 

GTRE issued the following statement on Wednesday night: "In recent weeks, GTRE has been confronted with various claims, some valid and some not, from vendors, contractors and other third parties, including York County, SC. GTRE is taking this action to ensure legitimate claims are processed as fairly and expeditiously as possible under a court supervised process, and to achieve the project's orderly and safe wind-down. GTRE intends to resolve its legitimate obligations." 

A spokesperson said it will not affect the Carolina Panthers or Tepper Sports and Entertainment. 

In early March, Tepper Sports and Entertainment said it was pausing the Rock Hill project because the city of Rock Hill did not hold up its end of the bargain in the deal.  WCNC Charlotte later discovered the city failed to secure $225 million in bonds to pay for roads, sidewalks and other public infrastructure on the site.

At the time, the company said it had already invested $170 million into the project. 

On Thursday, York County issued a statement saying it gave $21 million to GT Real Estate to upgrade a section of Mt. Gallant Road, which borders the training camp facility. 

A spokesperson for York County said for years, the county planned to widen the two-lane road to a three-lane using money from the Pennies for Progress tax, but it was the Panthers who wanted five lanes instead. The county said it gave the $21 million Tepper’s GT Real Estate with the agreement it would handle the project and pay the difference in costs. 

WCNC Charlotte learned that York County initiated a court filing on Wednesday morning to make sure Tepper doesn’t sell the Rock Hill site until debts are settled.  

In the statement, York County said it expects to receive the $21 million in full with interest to protect taxpayers. 

South Carolina bankruptcy attorney Mandy Powers Norrell said York County may receive its money back, but first courts must approve the Chapter 11 filing. 

“When you file a Chapter 11, it’s saying, 'I have faith in this business. I can continue to operate and pay back my creditors if I can just renegotiate the terms of some thing debt,'" Powers Norrell said. "So I have some confidence that if the debtor is successful in their Chapter 11 bankruptcy, that York County as one of the largest creditors is going to be repaid all or most of their debts.” 

The project was projected to have a major impact on Rock Hill’s economy.

“Unfortunately for our community, we went from honeymoon to divorce," South Carolina representative Tommy Pope said.

 According to the Panthers website, the 240-acre site would have included a state-of-the-art practice facility, new headquarter offices for the Panthers, corporate offices, residential and retail space and even a medical facility.

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