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Rock Hill Mayor: Panthers owner filed bankruptcy in training facility to avoid paying contractors

Mayor John Gettys denies any wrongdoing by the city of Rock Hill, saying they met "all of the obligations" with the Carolina Panthers for the training facility.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys spoke out for the first time since the Carolina Panthers terminated agreements to build a training facility in Rock Hill and David Tepper’s GT Real Estate subsequently filed for bankruptcy, accusing Tepper of filing bankruptcy to avoid paying contractors for their work on the project. 

Following a press conference announcing a new development on the south side of Rock Hill Thursday morning, Gettys addressed concerns about the future of the 200-plus acre site and the unfinished building on it, both of which are owned by Tepper’s organizations. 

“That site is within the city limits. The city of Rock Hill owns the water, we own the sewer, we own the electricity, we have zoning, and we have the entitlements,” said Gettys. “We’ll have what’s there that needs to be there for the people of Rock Hill’s best interest. Nothing is going to be built there or done there without the city of Rock Hill figuring out what is in our best interest going forward.” 

In early March, Tepper Sports and Entertainment, another one of David Tepper’s companies, 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. 

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Gettys denies any wrongdoing by the city. In a statement released in April, the city of Rock Hill said that it “met all obligations required under the agreements.”  

“With the Panthers, the owner filed for bankruptcy in order to get away from paying his general contractors that they got to move down to this area, which is what it is,” Gettys said on Thursday.  

A spokesperson for GT Real Estate declined to comment on this story. Earlier this month, the organization released a statement on the bankruptcy filing which said, "[GT Real Estate] 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.”

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. On the filing paperwork, the city of Rock Hill is listed as a creditor for just over $100 in unpaid utility payments. 

Gettys said the city did invest more in that project, but that money went toward public infrastructure that is already in place. 

“The city of Rock Hill invested $20 million in public infrastructure on the site, so there’s more than $20 million of public infrastructure in the ground on the site,” said Gettys. “So when and if whoever buys that property, they’ll buy that it improved and we’ll make sure the taxpayers get the benefit of the investment they made in the site.” 

Gettys said he and the city have not spoken publicly because of active litigation, saying he doesn’t want to say anything more that will undermine litigation strategy.

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