Charlotte Pipe & Foundry, a century-old manufacturer, confirmed Tuesday that it is relocating from its longtime home Uptown. The move frees up an expansive, 55-acre property that Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has said could be a new stadium site.
New plant: In a statement, Charlotte Pipe officials said the company has decided to build a new foundry on a 428-acre property in Oakboro. That’s a small town in Stanly County, about 45 minutes east of Charlotte. Charlotte Pipe will invest $325 million in the project. Site work begins later this year, and the new plant could start operating as early as late 2023, the company says.
Charlotte Pipe CEO Roddey Dowd, Jr., said the Uptown location “simply does not afford the opportunities for growth” that the company needs.
“While our current location is providing all stakeholders with a solid platform to deliver outstanding results, a new foundry will allow a more efficient layout of our plant and equipment and give us the flexibility to expand to meet future needs,” Dowd said.
The company said its senior management team is evaluating “a wide variety of options” for the foundry’s Uptown property. Whatever happens next there, it’s likely it’ll require significant work, from razing the existing foundry to conducting environmental analysis.
It is unclear when the site will go up for sale. Spokesman Brad Muller tells the Agenda the company doesn’t have anything new to share about land holdings.
“We will have to continue operating there for the next three years while the new plant is under construction, so I would not expect anything to happen anytime soon,” Muller says.
Zoom out: Charlotte Pipe sits at the corner of South Clarkson Street and West Summit Avenue, almost literally a stone’s throw from Bank of America Stadium. It is one of the last remaining parcels in the Uptown area big enough to fit an NFL stadium.
It’s larger than the 35 acres on Mint Street that the Panthers currently call home. The team leases that property from the city of Charlotte for $1 per year.
Currently, the Panthers’ stadium is in the midst of renovations to accommodate Major League Soccer games. Part of the work includes the addition of a MLS-specific central tunnel and new, field-level suites.
This construction work comes just a few years after city leaders chipped in $87.5 million for facility renovations. Among other upgrades, the team replaced its aging scoreboards and old escalators.
Still, Bank of America Stadium is one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL.
“If you’re going to compare the (Bank of America Stadium) property to new modern stadiums, you have to recognize that there’s a lot of functional obsolescence,” Yvonne Broszus, who has studied NFL stadiums and helped the Panthers with their appeal, told the county earlier this year.
[Related Agenda story: What’s it like when David Tepper casually mentions building a stadium on your property?]
David Tepper, the league’s richest owner, has made clear he wants a new state-of-the-art stadium with a roof to replace Bank of America Stadium.
In a roundtable with reporters last fall, Tepper specifically called out Charlotte Pipe and Foundry as one possibility. At the time, the foundry wasn’t ready to talk about a possible move from its spot.
But a new stadium Uptown — walkable to bars, restaurants, and the eventual Gateway Station — would fit squarely with Tepper’s long-term vision to make Charlotte the sports and entertainment capital of the Carolinas. A new NFL stadium, he’s said, would be its centerpiece. The team may have moved its headquarters to Rock Hill, but Tepper has repeated that he wants the team to play its home games Uptown.
Tepper wants the stadium in use all year round. That means not just NFL games, but also for major events like Final Fours and big concerts.
A Panthers representative could not be reached for comment.
“We see many exciting possibilities for the property,” said Hooper Hardison, president of Charlotte Pipe.
Incentives: Charlotte Pipe’s announcement comes on the same day state officials approved $15 million in incentives for the company to relocate. It also comes less than a week after Stanly County officials approved $35 million in tax breaks for the company to move.
Rumors about the company’s relocation have circulated for a while.
That’s partly because Charlotte Pipe already owns the land to which it’s moving. The company bought about 40 acres Stanly County in 2008, thanks to a $2.5 million grant from the state’s nonprofit Golden LEAF Foundation, the Charlotte Observer wrote in February 2009.
Uptown history: W. Frank Dowd, great-grandfather of the company’s current CEO, started Charlotte Pipe in 1901 in order to provide cast-iron fittings and piping throughout the newly industrialized South.
Over time, the manufacturer expanded its Uptown footprint as its operations grew.
For years, Charlotte Pipe has employed hundreds of well-paid blue collar workers in Uptown. That’s become a rarity for a part of the city brimming with high-paying corporate jobs and low-wage hospitality work.
At its new home in Oakboro, Charlotte Pipe plans to employ at least 400 people, the Stanly County Journal reported earlier this month.
“This is a great county and it’s where I live,” CEO Dowd said during a public hearing, the paper wrote. “I’m proud to call it home and I hope that Charlotte Pipe can call it home very soon.”