Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC owner David Tepper is pulling out of plans to build a youth academy and soccer fields in former Eastland Mall siteTepper Sports and Entertainment confirmed on Wednesday.
“After careful consideration, the timing of the Eastland project posed challenges which led us to seek accelerated alternatives,” a TSE spokesperson wrote in a statement.
The company continues to work on a training facility for Charlotte FC, the club’s academy and its MLS Next Pro team, the company said in a statement.
But TSE’s plans no longer include a presence at Eastland, the company’s spokesperson said.
“We continue to have discussions with the City of Charlotte as we work to drive economic engagement through sports and live entertainment,” TSE said.
The move comes just a day after a Carolina Panthers executive left the group and following a failed deal for a Panthers training facility and new team headquarters in Rock Hill.
A senior city official told The Charlotte Observer that ‘no one in the city knows why’ Tepper Sports and Entertainment pulled out of the Eastland Mall project, as first reported by Axios Charlotte.
In a statement, a city spokesperson said, “The city has been working for years to redevelop the Eastland Mall site and will continue this work. The city’s priority is to create economic opportunity for the Eastside community and for Charlotte as a whole, and we remain committed to doing so. The development of the Eastland site will continue with the first ground breaking on August 3rd.
“…The City and Tepper Sports have a strong partnership and the City remains open to discussing opportunities with Tepper Sports in Eastland. We appreciate the significant contribution Tepper Sports has made to Charlotte and the city supports Tepper Sports’ efforts to increase sporting and entertainment events, which benefits Charlotte businesses and residents.
The City of Charlotte purchased the now vacant property in 2012 after the mall closed. He had planned to transform space into a hub for mixed housing, green spaces, businesses and the home of Charlotte FC’s academy.
An Eastland redevelopment proposal introduced last summer predicted that Tepper Sports would take up around 11% of the open space, with 22 acres earmarked to house the Charlotte FC academy complex. The plans called for two large lots for the academy, one large lot for public use as well as four medium lots and six small lots for public use, according to the proposal.
Charlotte FC Development Academy sponsors several young boys’ soccer teams (U17, U15 and U14) and a Discovery program (U13 and U12). It will also field a reserve team in 2023. The academy currently trains at a football complex in Rock Hill, SC called Manchester Meadows.
The 80-acre Eastland Mall site off Central Avenue was last used as an outdoor flea market until city officials and police told vendors they could no longer settle on the property. Vendors have since been moved. A group led by Tariq Bokhari, Charlotte City Councilman organized a temporary site for vendors in the city center on Saturday, but few registered to sell goods there.
Rock Hill deal fails, executives leave
Charlotte’s professional sports scene has seen significant changes since Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers in 2018.
Since that transaction, Tepper has purchased and brought a Major League Soccer franchise to Charlotte, invested more than $70 million in facility upgrades at Bank of America Stadium designed to enhance the fan and player experience and more than doubled the number of events held on site.
Eastland is just Tepper Sports and Entertainment’s latest shakeup in this changing landscape.
As of Monday, the Panthers COO Mark Hart resigned from his post, spokesman Bruce Speight said. Hart was brought to the Panthers in 2018 from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tepper hired Hart and made him vice president of development. He previously held the same position with the Steelers.
Nick Kelly has stepped down as CEO of TSE after three months on the job, The Observer reported in May. At the time, Kelly’s departure was the latest in a list of top performers leaving TSE, including Tom Glick, who was chairman of TSE.
Construction on the Rock Hill project was halted in March and contractors received stop work orders. In June, GT Real Estate Holdings LLC, the company Tepper created for the project, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. if construction had already started.
TSE is the group that owns the Panthers and Major League Soccer expansion team Charlotte FC.
This story was originally published July 20, 2022 9:32 p.m.