Lawmakers want NFL's Panthers to practice in South Carolina

South Carolina lawmakers are taking steps to lure the Carolina Panthers to move their practice facility and operations across the North Carolina state line by introducing legislation that would provide tax credits and incentives to professional sports teams.

Members of the House Economic Development Legislative subcommittee voted Tuesday in favor of the Professional Sports Team Investment Act. The proposal would allow the NFL team to be eligible for tax credits and exemptions, incentives they would not have been eligible for under current laws. A Senate subcommittee passed their companion version of the bill Tuesday.

The bill's author, House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, said the legislation is intended for all prospective professional teams to consider the Palmetto State as a viable location for their franchise.

"It allows South Carolina to welcome pro sports teams to South Carolina, giving them basically what is afforded to other businesses when they bring investments to South Carolina, jobs to South Carolina," the Republican lawmaker said. "This just adds that to the list."

The legislation comes after talks last week between South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, lawmakers and Panthers owner David Tepper. Following the meeting, McMaster along with members of the General Assembly held a news conference at the Statehouse expressing their excitement about the possible move and its potential financial implications on the state. Along with an indoor practice facility, owners are considering building a sports medicine facility, restaurants, hotel and meeting spaces, McMaster said during the news conference. No deal has been finalized; however lawmakers are continuing to strengthen their appeal.

"We are so grateful that we have the opportunity to do that, to work with the Panthers and other sports teams as South Carolina continues to grow both from an economic standpoint and a livelihood standpoint," Simrill said. "This legislation will benefit South Carolina and the Panthers."

The House panel unanimously passed the bill out of subcommittee.

Both the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means full committees will take up their versions of the legislation Wednesday. The Rock Hill lawmaker said he expects the bipartisan-backed legislation to pass swiftly through both chambers.

"The governor has responded that he would sign them with alacrity," Simrill said. "I look forward to it happening soon, and then everything else is really up to the Panthers."

The state and Tepper have not settled on any potential site and are considering an area in York County about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of its stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.