|Center City Partners report backs Memorial Stadium upgrade|
|Soccer-specific facility key to MLS bid|
|Published Friday, August 26, 2016 4:36 pm|
Is Charlotte serious about bringing Major League Soccer to the Queen City?
Local leaders gathered Thursday for Charlotte Center City Partners' board meeting, where President Michael Smith’s report addressed the refurbishment of Memorial Stadium. Many consider upgrading Memorial a key piece in securing an MLS franchise.
“There is a magic to soccer that we are just beginning to understand,” Smith said at Goodyear Arts in Uptown. “Memorial Stadium is ripe for renewal. Renewal of purpose. Renewal of investment.”
Since the initial proposal by Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation Department Director James Garges on July 6 to Mecklenburg County Commissioners, Smith noted the board could approve partial funding of the $25 million project as early as September. This would include a three-part funding split between Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, the county and the Charlotte Independence/Hounds.
“CRVA has raised their hand and said ‘we want to be a part of this. We see the value of this,’” Smith said.
Said Independence President and Managing Partner Jim McPhilliamy: “The goal has always been to [bring MLS to Charlotte].”
According to the report: “Charlotte Center City Partners is partnering with Mecklenburg County, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation, the City of Charlotte, CRVA and the Charlotte Independence/Charlotte Hounds to create a proposal to renovate American Legion Memorial Stadium. The project, as envisioned, is a $25 million public-private renovation of the stadium and will create a facility that can support professional soccer.”
While MLS plans to expand to 28 teams by 2020, Charlotte would need a soccer-specific stadium to make the cut. The Memorial Stadium proposal would widen the field and have a capacity of 10,870, with the option to expand capacity as well as install a synthetic surface. Smith stressed the importance of having the ability to expand seating for MLS. However, the stadium would still be open for public use for events such as concerts and high school sports.
“They have offered a preliminary design,” Smith said. “This is not the final design.”
Smith outlined the four steps in the process as: “1) Brief City Council, 2) Create a vision plan for the area, 3) Create a fast track schedule that allows completion in the first quarter of 2018, 4) Secure funding.”
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