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City to pro soccer stadium: See ya
Council cancels forum and funding vote
 
Published Thursday, January 26, 2017 11:29 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Major League Soccer won’t come to Charlotte in 2020 with help from Charlotte’s City Council.

The panel will not vote on whether to spend $43.75 million on stadium financing before the league’s Jan. 31 application deadline, which leaves Mecklenburg County and Speedway Motorsports Inc. President and CEO Marcus Smith as the remaining partners in the public-private venture.

“We are canceling the City Council Friday 4 p.m. meeting scheduled to discuss the MLS deal,” Major Jennifer Roberts said in a statement from the council’s retreat in Raleigh. “Over the past several days, we have been discussing this opportunity, and while this is very promising it is clear that we are not prepared to move forward at this time on the current soccer proposal. The Council is interested in a future opportunity to pursue Major League Soccer with more information and time to allow for interactive dialogue with the community and appropriate due diligence on our part. Any major decision we make needs to be considered as part of the bigger picture as we serve our entire community. Continued partnerships with sports positively impacts many of the initiates we are working on, and we need to be diligent in planning a future where everyone wins.”

Mecklenburg County commissioners voted 5-3 today at its budget retreat to provide $43.75 million on the stadium project, clearing a major hurdle for Smith’s bid to pursue an expansion franchise. City officials decided it did not have enough time or information to vote on providing $43.75 million in funding to replace Memorial Stadium, the projected MLS stadium site.

“If the city backs out, there are all kinds of possibilities,” Commissioner George Dunlap said. “Bruton Smith [Marcus Smith’s father and chairman of SMI] might decide that he wants to have a bigger investment, so I’m not really concerned about that.”

Said Commissioner Jim Puckett, who voted against funding: “Clearly, the city council is showing more intelligence than the county commission. I’m glad to hear that they are being prudent and doing what we didn’t do in asking for more time and information.”

City council had considered voting at the retreat, but felt that would send the wrong message. Their next meeting is Feb. 6.

“There is no other option,” council member James Mitchell said prior to leaving for the retreat. “Either we do this as a collaborative effort—public-private partnership with the county, the city and Marcus Smith – or we won’t be playing professional soccer in Charlotte.”

Related:

Mayor Roberts: 'We want input' on pro soccer stadium financing

Pros and cons of Major League Soccer stadium debated

 

Comments

Below-wrong. Just as the Knights Stadium was foolishly rammed down the throat of the taxpayer for Don Beaver since they funds just HAD to be used for tourism/recreational means. Even though Asheville, Hickory, Kannapolis, Winston, Greensboro, and numerous others had great minor league baseball stadiums and would bring in no tourism. Now a truly unique entity is being shunned that actually would bring in crowds from outside of Mecklenburg, and the tourism/recreational funds won't be used. Its unspeakably cross eyed. Mind numbing.

Again wake up and smell the coffee. All world class cities in this country have a team. One decade ago-$10 million expansion fee, now $150. Multiple billionaires sprinkled through 12 cities are in line. MLS will be a major face of the American sports landscape in the near future.
Posted on January 27, 2017
 
We could just as easily use those taxes to build affordable housing, improve schools, etc. County money too - it's coming from the capital budget (comes from taxpayers) which can go to much worthier things that will benefit Charlotteans at much less expense. In this case we have a stadium for 17 games a year and a few more events (very few FT jobs that pay more than minimum wage, we get no revenue share) when we could allow many businesses there that host many FT employees who pay taxes. That's using the space wisely. But the MLS insists on using scarce Center City space. Well maybe they aren't for us. When people discuss world class US cities, they don't say "Oh but does it have an MLS team?" The very thought cracks me up.

But again, most importantly, why do you insist taxpayers take all the risk and not share in any potential gains? Potential, bc soccer may be growing, but almost all MLS teams lose money. This is billionaire welfare pure and simple. Why don't you offer up a better deal instead of telling us how dumb we are for not understanding how obviously awesome MLS would be? We seem to be growing pretty well without MLS as it is.
Posted on January 27, 2017
 
Post below-Huh? Mecklenburg County residents work hard for hotel/car rental taxes used here that would be used in the project?

Great, we're an NFL city. Shouldn't an aspiring world class city in the middle of two states with 15 million people have both? Especially when one has an extremely rocky road ahead with declining ratings, concussion/health concerns, and parents not letting kids play the game?
Posted on January 27, 2017
 
Goose guy - He's got a point. The city's role is not to roll over and help the Smith's get richer. People work hard for the money the City hands out. We are an investor in this just like the Smiths so we get to manage risk too.

And we are an NFL city baby!
Posted on January 27, 2017
 
Billionaires don't become billionaires by being dumb. Investing well over $200 million is a lot even for the Smith's, and anyone not named Gates or Buffett. I'm sure the geese at Memorial will be comforted with the other gobbledygook as they seek scraps where hundreds of thousands would have converged every year while other cities become MLS cities.
Posted on January 27, 2017
 
If it's such a sure thing, why won't the billionaire Smith's take pay for it themselves? Right now they think most people/politicians will ignore the terms and just think about the fancy seats they'll get on opening day.

If soccer comes on the right terms, I would support it, but the current terms are confiscatory. Give us an interest rate that reflects the speculative nature of sports stadium and revenue share to compensate for our 50% investment. How about some affordable housing from the Smiths nearby? I won't hold my breath.

You can always tell an investors' true view of the opportunity based on their terms. Right now they aren't willing to risk much, so apparently this isn't such a slam dunk.
Posted on January 27, 2017
 
Post below-you gotta be kidding me. Since when has CLT avoided a good old fashioned boondoggle? Now there's a bonafide opportunity to bring the world's most popular game in a league that in a decade has jumped from a $10 million to $150 expansion fee, and we are now all of a sudden not the world class city we claim to be? St Louis City Council approved their plan today. The list has grown to 12 from 10 with Phoenix and Vegas entering the fray. Wake up and smell the coffee. Has BOA been filled to the brim with yuppies when Mexico has packed the house? Chicharito himself will likely be in MLS soon. I suppose the current decades long plan to have Memorial Stadium filled with more geese than people and the summer months being a microwave of boredom are preferred?
Posted on January 27, 2017
 
Nothin but all-caps and lots of exclamation points make weak argument. The investment by the city is actually $87.5mm upfront. Compare that to the $10.5mm in neighborhood and business grants in the 2017 budget. Shouldn't we spend more there?

On top of that is the $75mm loan, which is at less than half the market interest rate. The Smiths can go use money for anything they want, earning a much higher return on other projects (meaning, they are getting a free lunch on our dime); they only have to pay us back once per year. They could even invest the money in government bonds and pocket the difference in interest they earn on that and pay to us! And the Smiths are actually only paying $12.5mm upfront. It's a clear ripoff for us taxpayers. Every dime of revenue goes to the Smiths. Read the contract.

The city needs to keep its priorities straight, and we need to tell the County Commissioners to back off now and support our people and our communities, not some gathering place for a couple thousand yuppies and families that will never fill the stadium.
Posted on January 27, 2017
 
The post below is wrong. There WOULD have been a SIGNIFICANT economic impact because this would have been the only revenue soccer team in the region, and brought $$$ from outside of Mecklenburg County. Unlike minor league baseball which there are many, or even major college basketball or football which many in the region prefer over our NFL and NBA teams, soccer has none. The investment by the city is MINISCULE to the returns in both the short and long term in both dollars and entertainment value/pride. Especially with the Smiths willing to pay over $200 million already!!!!!!!

With the NFL possibly phasing out due to many reasons not the least of which is concussions over the next generation, MLS is going to have a huge face on our sports scene as a nation.

Charlotte shot itself today.
Posted on January 26, 2017
 
Yes the park is a joke and poor use of prime real estate. But this would have been a complete fleecing of the taxpayer, with interest below markets and no rev share. Economic impact assessment absolutely bogus. Kudos for not capitulating to billionaires wanting subsidies to make an otherwise uneconomic deal pay off for only themselves.
Posted on January 26, 2017
 
Approve a minor league baseball team when there are already countless in the region and shun a $200+ million private investment in a unique growing entity, the only in the region if approved. Dummies. More egg on the face of the CCC as Charlotte's image takes a hit, while MLS happily goes elsewhere in what was already a competitive environment.
Posted on January 26, 2017
 
Good move. Charlotte is probably not a valid contender until the next round anyway. Make the private $$ sweat a little and see if some more private $$ are suddenly found. This was way too sweet a deal.
Posted on January 26, 2017
 

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