In October 1993, the Carolina Panthers officially became the newest expansion team in the National Football League, with their home in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, they were specifically named the “Carolina” Panthers, and not the “Charlotte” Panthers, because the plan was always to embrace the entire region.
While Panthers home games have been played in Charlotte since the start of the 1996 season, their first season was played in Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. They have also held training camp each summer for the past 25 years at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Soon, the team will be even more spread between the two Carolinas as the Panthers move their headquarters and practice facility to Rock Hill, South Carolina.
New Panthers owner David Tepper took over in 2018 and began planning for how to expand the presence of the team and financial opportunities. One of these was his intention to build a new team headquarters and practice facility that would allow for the team to work in a world-class facility no matter the weather conditions. He also planned to make the facility more about the community and not just about where the team practiced.
“This is going to be a showcase down here and bring people to the region,” said Tepper.
In 2019, a site was selected and purchased by the team. Use of the selected site would require filling 0.87 acre of wetlands and 4,991 linear feet of tributaries protected under the Clean Water Act. Since construction would fill these waters of the United States, a permit was required from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As a potential boon for the local economy, the South Carolina Department of Commerce made this a priority project for themselves and began early discussions with the Corps, thanks to a good working relationship established over many years. The Panthers were looking to get construction of the complex going as quickly as possible, so pre-application meetings began with all parties in July 2019 so that everyone could fully understand what the others needed in order to get it done.
“We told them they needed to know everything they wanted to do from the beginning,” said Richard Darden, regulatory project manager. “Not just the team facility, but all the surrounding aspects, like medical, commercial and residential parts. Having the full scope at the beginning makes it smoother.”
The Corps visited the site and potential mitigation area with the applicant to see everything that was going on. These visits helped refine the scope of the application.
“The Panthers worked to avoid and minimize impacts as much as possible before their official application, so there isn’t that much impact to wetlands,” said Darden. “The quality and condition of the streams onsite was low, so their mitigation at a tract adjacent to Landsford Canal State Park represents a desirable offset to the project’s wetland and stream impacts.”
The Panthers were motivated to move quickly and were ready with a complete application when they submitted it. This allowed the public notice to go out from the Corps on the same day the application was received.
After the review process was complete, the Corps issued a permit to the Panthers on May 14th. As mitigation for impacts, the Panthers will preserve and enhance 3.38 acres of wetlands and 9,003 linear feet of tributaries in an area located directly adjacent to Landsford Canal State Park in Chester County, which is about three times the return compared to the impacts.
“It was a really positive process for us,” said Darden. “Responsiveness and cooperation allowed us to work together quickly to get this done in less than five months.”
The Carolina Panthers hope to complete the facility and begin using it in 2022 as they seek their first Super Bowl title.