Local & State
|Soccer stadium funding leaves city and county leaders at impasse|
|Possibility of collaboration up in the air|
|Published Monday, June 19, 2017 4:45 pm|
|Rendering of the proposed Major League Soccer stadium at the current Memorial Stadium site.|
Charlotte’s Major League Soccer hopes are in extra time.
With Mecklenburg County hitting the brakes on providing funding for American Legion Memorial Stadium to be repurposed as an MLS stadium site, the county-owned property could make or break Charlotte’s shot for an expansion franchise which would begin play in 2020.
“We’re not talking about Memorial Stadium—I’m not talking about it,” Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation Department Director James Garges said Saturday at the debut of the new Sportsplex at Matthews. “We’re talking about this facility. Memorial Stadium will take care of itself.”
Last week, Commissioner Dumont Clarke motioned to defer stadium funding from the county’s $1.7 billion budget. A decision will be made at the Aug. 2 meeting to decide the project’s fate. While the city indicated that its earliest potential decision on stadium funding would not come until September, the city has until Aug. 1 to get involved.
MLS4CLT CEO Marcus Smith said in a statement last week: “The campaign for MLS continues. We will focus on informing city leaders about the benefits of MLS, so they can reach the best decision for our community. We encourage MLS supporters in Charlotte to make their voices heard prior to August 2.”
Commissioners voted 5-3 on Jan. 26 to provide $43.75 million to redesign the Memorial Stadium site for MLS. However, Charlotte City Council simultaneously canceled a public hearing to gain input on the project, in which they were expected to vote on matching the county’s $43.75 million. Smith went ahead with submitting a franchise bid prior to the Jan. 31 application deadline.
“What’s different about this project is Memorial Stadium is a county-owned property,” Commissioner Trevor Fuller said. “We have a responsibility, not just a moral responsibility, but a community responsibility to make sure that stadium is the best it can be. Regardless of how we do that, whether we do that through the great opportunity that Major League Soccer would be, or we do it some other way, we still have a responsibility to use our resources to make sure that Memorial Stadium is a great facility for everybody in the community. To me, if you look at it in the big picture, we still have the responsibility to fund improving the property.
“Of course I support the idea of Major League Soccer coming to Charlotte, and our participation as a partner with the city and with the team to make that happen,” Fuller said. “Who knows what will happen between now and August, but I think we ought to give the city and the team all the time they need, at least until Aug. 2, to see if we can make this partnership happen. I think it would be good for it to happen for our community; not only for what it could mean for Memorial Stadium, but also for the 7th Street corridor, and the economic development that could come to our community.”
City Council meets tonight for a zoning meeting, and will meet on June 26 for their its business meeting.
“We the City [were] told that the County was giving us until August 1 to decide if the City was going to contribute funding,” Council member James Mitchell said Monday in a text.
Regardless of Charlotte’s soccer aspirations, 81-year-old Memorial Stadium needs attention.
“Memorial is so important to our community,” Fuller said. “It was the first stadium in Charlotte—right next to Independence Park, which was our first park. We’ve got a great responsibility to Memorial Stadium. Hopefully we’ll be able to take advantage of [Major League Soccer]. If not, we still have a responsibility to make Memorial Stadium a true gem for our community.”
|Has Charlotte seen it's best days as a city? Or is it still growing/progressing? Sounds like we'll know by August 2. An eyesore of a useless stadium or the world's most popular game in a brand new one, with the Smith family already investing well over $200 million. Wake up CCC.|
|Posted on June 20, 2017|
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