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It's Uptown stadium location or bust for Charlotte MLS bid
Memroial Stadium is preferred target
 
Published Friday, January 20, 2017 3:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

For Marcus Smith, bringing Major League Soccer to Charlotte has been five years in the making.

By Jan. 31, Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s president and CEO, will apply for an MLS franchise. In the second and third quarter of this year, the league will announce the next two clubs to commence play in 2020.

“We have just a few days here to get our application in,” said Smith, who is leading the Charlotte effort with his father Bruton. “MLS outlined the steps for the next round franchises to be awarded, and gave us the deadline. Since then, we have been working feverishly to wrap up those requirements. The main requirement there is, in addition of course to identifying a franchisee—which is us—then really getting into the location and securing the land and securing a stadium plan and financing. That’s really the next step.”

With success as sports entrepreneurs as NASCAR track owners and promoters, the Smiths have an extensive background in marketing and sustaining a product.

“We’re in the sports entertainment business,” Marcus Smith said. “Being in the business, we’re keenly aware of the other sports entertainment franchises and opportunities that are in the marketplace.”

Smith has been quietly biding his time on bringing professional soccer to Charlotte.


“We’ve been following MLS, among others, over the years,” he said. “A number of our partners are in MLS, and we’d ask a lot of questions, learn some things, and over the last five years particularly, that the U.S. market is finally turning the corner and really embracing Major League Soccer, and really worldwide soccer. That really got our attention. … Eventually we made our way to the league offices, and had some nice discussions, and we decided to make a run at it.”

Memorial Stadium in the Elizabeth neighborhood is the Smith’s preferred site for a soccer-specific facility.

“The current stadium as it really sits is in a state of disrepair,” Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said. “The stadium is only used 12 times a year,” mostly by the Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse.

Said Smith: “We definitely did a lot of studying a number of different location options. It really does narrow down to Memorial for Charlotte. More broadly, it narrows down for MLS, it really narrows down to Uptown Charlotte. If you’re not in Uptown, then it’s probably not a winning bid.”

The public-private collaboration requires $87.5 million for stadium construction from the team and $43.75 million each from the city and county. The plan requires that the team remain in the facility for at least 25 years.

“They’ve agreed to put in $12.5 million to help facilitate the construction, and then they’ll pay lease payments over a 25-year period of $4.26 million,” Diorio said. “As I indicated, the county will own the facility. The team will operate and maintain the facility. They’ll be responsible for all the operating expenses associated with that, but they’ll also be entitled to keep all the revenue.”

Six rent-free days would be allotted to the city, and 14 rent free days would be allotted to the county.

“We’ll be able to retain all the revenue associated with our events, as will the CRVA,” Diorio said. “We’ll pay out of pocket costs associated with our events, as will the CRVA. The team will be responsible for managing all the advertising and promotion usage of the facility, and they’ll also manage all of the concessionary master vendor contracts, and … maintain all the revenue associated with their uses of the stadium.”

A public hearing will take place on Jan. 24 at 3 p.m. at the Government Center. Commissioners will vote on the proposed plan on Jan. 26 during their retreat at Goodwill Industries of Southern Piedmont on Wilkinson Boulevard, which is open to the public.

To register to speak at the Jan. 24 forum: http://boccspeaker.mecklenburgcountync.gov/Source/SignInToSpeak.aspx

For more information about the proposed plan: http://charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/news/Pages/MLS.aspx

 

Comments

I'm sure the same inane comments, like the one beginning with "great, another ripoff," were made when the first NFL franchises were awarded in the early part of the last century. "Capital isn't scarce; vision is."
Posted on January 24, 2017
 
We spent money on a freaking street car that has about as much use as the NASCAR hall of fame which we also spent money on. So if those are so called worthy expenditures then this isn't as bad as those. We get constant sports revenue plus another venue for concerts and other events like high school football playoff games. So while it's not as good as them paying the full bill it's a better investment then the street car, NASCAR hall of fame, or white water center have or every will be.
Posted on January 20, 2017
 
Great, another ripoff. Why should the taxpayers fork over $87.5 million only for some corporate "sponsor" to put their name on it. You want your name on it you build it. We have far better uses for the money.
Posted on January 20, 2017
 
Awesome. Can't wait.
Posted on January 20, 2017
 

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