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Public input sought on proposed Major League Soccer stadium
Jan. 24 hearing before Mecklenburg commissioners
Published Thursday, January 19, 2017 1:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

You can’t have sports without politics.

As the Jan. 31 Major League Soccer expansion application deadline approaches, the proposed public-private collaboration to fund a soccer stadium in Charlotte seeks public feedback at the Jan. 24 Mecklenburg County commissioners meeting.

“I indicated that if the board is truly considering spending $40-50 million on a project of this magnitude that they should have a public hearing and obtain public input,” Commissioner Bill James said. “They decided to have that public input at [the Jan. 24] meeting, and that’s fine. As I understand it, then they’re planning on voting on it at the county commissioner retreat, which is going to be several days later.”  

The Jan. 26-27 retreat will take place at Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont on Wilkinson Boulevard. It is open to the public.

James, whose district includes southwest Charlotte and Matthews, said the proposed $190 million conversion of Memorial Stadium into a soccer-specific facility may not be the most efficient use of public money. Mecklenburg and the city of Charlotte would each contribute $50 million to the project, with the county funds coming from property taxes. Charlotte’s share would come from a hotel tax that specifically goes to tourism-related projects.

“It’s too much,” James said. “Fifty million is equal to building one high school, for example. The short answer is, I’m trying to be reasonable about this, but I do not believe government’s role should be to contribute to facilities that are basically just going to be used by the one percent.”

The Charlotte MLS bid has a deep-pocketed investor in Speedway Motorsports Inc. President and CEO Marcus Smith, who would be responsible for the $150 million franchise expansion fee and $50-90 million to renovate Memorial. The $50 million required of the county is $42 million more than they intended to spend on renovating the county-owned facility in the Elizabeth neighborhood.

“I don’t believe that government should be in the business of financing for-profit sports franchises,” James said. “I think government should do things that private groups can’t do. We build schools. We build roads. We build parks and libraries, but I don’t think we should subsidize building skyboxes, private bathrooms and luxury seating. However, Memorial Stadium needs to be fixed, because it’s out of date. I don’t mind contributing a certain amount of money, because we had already planned on putting in $8 million to renovate Memorial to rebuild it, because it’s very old, but I am opposed to the current proposals of $50 million, for example.”


I think that the City of Charlotte and MeckCo better go slow when dealing with a couple vipers like the Smiths.
Posted on January 19, 2017

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