COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina wants the Carolina Panthers to move their practice facility into their state's suburbs. But there is at least one big hurdle — football players don't practice enough hours to be considered full-time employees in the state, so South Carolina can't offer the Panthers tax credits and other incentives.
Gov. Henry McMaster and legislative leaders said Wednesday they will push for a bill to exempt football players from the rule.
McMaster and a number of top state officials and lawmakers met with Panthers owner David Tepper at the South Carolina Governor's Mansion and Tepper said he was very interested in what South Carolina had to offer, McMaster said.
No deal was finalized.
Tepper has said since buying the team last summer that a new indoor practice facility is a priority. The Panthers currently practice outside near Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, and had to move several late-season practices to a ballroom because of rain.
Several South Carolina lawmakers spoke as if the proposal to move the practice facility and team offices to a new complex that could include a sports medicine center, restaurants and hotels was a done deal.
"The Carolina Panthers will truly be one team, two states," South Carolina House Speaker Jay Lucas said, repeating the team's motto when it first started playing in 1995.
But Tepper was not at the news conference Lucas, McMaster and other officials held at the capitol after the meeting. The team didn't have any immediate comment on its plans.
It also wasn't clear whether Charlotte or North Carolina might make a counteroffer to keep the facility and offices.
"We're not concerned about that. We are thinking about South Carolina," McMaster said. "We know we can outrun anyone on the field."
The new facility would bring 150 jobs — including coaches, players, marketing staff, team executives and others, McMaster said.
The state and Tepper have not settled on any potential site, considering areas in York County and Lancaster County, all about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Bank of America Stadium.
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