ROCK HILL, S.C. – David Tepper's latest trip to South Carolina started and ended on a high note.
Shortly after arriving at Fountain Park in downtown Rock Hill, the Panthers' owner brought a smile to a young fan by signing her Cam Newton jersey.
A few minutes later, before a large crowd filled with Newton and Luke Kuechly jerseys, Tepper was all smiles as South Carolina governor Henry McMaster ceremonially signed a bill that clears the way for Tepper's team to build a practice complex in the Rock Hill area.
"We're tickled to be down here in Rock Hill," Tepper said to a crowd already revved up for the occasion after appearances by the TopCats, Sir Purr and Purrcussion. "It's a great day to be down here."
Tepper's organization will be in Rock Hill for the long haul thanks in part to the recently ratified legislation that provides tax breaks for the Panthers' proposed facility south of Charlotte, which will continue to be the team's home on game days.
"We're going to build a world-class facility," Tepper said. "This is going to be a showcase that will bring people down to this region."
Tepper addressed the crowd after a roster full of South Carolina politicians took to the stage. Rock Hill mayor John Gettys served as master of ceremonies for Wednesday's event, welcoming the crowd to "celebrate the biggest economic development project in Rock Hill and York County's history."
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman called it a "watershed moment" for the state of South Carolina and presented Tepper with an American flag that flew over the United States Capitol. Gary Simrill, the majority leader of the South Carolina House of Representatives and a Rock Hill native, offered up a "Keep Pounding!" and a dab while calling the project "the crowning jewel" for a town already known as Football City USA.
Details of the Panthers' plan - including the site, the scope and the timing of the project – are still to be ironed out. The bill went through its share of political ups and downs before becoming law, prompting South Carolina Senate president Harvey Peeler to make light of the broken arm he recently suffered at the hands of a cow.
"As far as Governor McMaster twisting arms to make sure this legislation passed? It's not exaggerated," he joked.
But Peeler and McMaster know this is no joke. Bringing a part of an NFL franchise to the state looks like a victory for all sides.
"From the time the governor introduced me to Mr. Tepper and his organization, I've been impressed with him and his people and his vision," Peeler said. "It's unbelievable what this man is going to do to this community and this state.
"When a pro-business state teams up with a pro football team, it's going to be victorious. As Joe Namath would say, 'I guarantee it.'"