|Mecklenburg proposes $31.7 million upfit for Memorial Stadium|
|Report calls for county to foot all costs|
|Published Tuesday, December 19, 2017 10:00 pm|
|Artist rendering of proposed upfit to Memorial Stadium in Charlotte.|
American Legion Memorial Stadium is Mecklenburg County’s zombie.
County manager Dena Diorio’s report at tonight’s county commissioners meeting detailed a $31.7 million proposal to renovate the stadium over two years.
“It’s our asset,” Diorio said. “We don’t want to be in a position that we have to negotiate away our rights to our funding partners when you have additional funding partners. If it’s our asset, and we pay 100 percent of the cost, then we get to decide how it gets used, when it gets used, and we can lease it to whomever we think would make the most sense for the county, but after all of the conversations that we’ve had about Memorial Stadium, I think we’re in position now to say ‘it’s our asset, and we should do what we think is in the county’s best interest.”’
Six commissioners voted in favor of supporting Diorio’s report: George Dunlap, Trevor Fuller, Chair Ella Scarborough, Pat Cotham, Dumont Clarke and Vilma Leake. Matthew Ridenhour and Jim Puckett, who expressed concerns about property taxes being used to fund stadium renovations voted against. Bill James abstained.
Puckett suggested that partnering with the city of Charlotte would be a better use of tax revenue, as the city’s tourism tax is designed for such projects.
“It comes from property tax,” Puckett said of the funding. “People who do not have a choice. They have to pay the tax. City of Charlotte does have a tax that is paid by visitors, and people who chose to eat and stay in hotels. The Hotel-Tourism Alliance have been very supportive of being able to fund these types of projects, which is what this one is.”
Commissioners agreed to take action regarding the stadium on Nov. 8, and several believed tonight’s meeting would result in more definitive action being taken toward determining the historic site’s fate.
Memorial Stadium has been the target of three soccer organizations over the last year and a half: MLS4CLT, the Charlotte Independence of USL and 704 F.C. of the NISA. Charlotte missed the cut for an MLS expansion team and NISA awaits U.S. Soccer approval to begin play. The league is vetting cities for potential clubs and Charlotte’s application was not accepted as it currently does not have a sufficient primary investor.
Dunlap noted how soccer and Memorial Stadium have presented polarizing issues over the last two years. All the commissioners agree that the stadium needs to be renovated, but they haven’t been able to come to a decision about how and with whom. The Charlotte Independence and Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation presented a $25 million project in 2016 that required a contribution of $8 million from the county, city and USL team. In December 2016, the county began considering the MLS4CLT bid. Since then, the Independence has used two other county-owned facilities: Ramblewood Park (2015-16) and the Sportsplex at Matthews (2017). The franchise’s intention has always been to play at Memorial Stadium, and tonight they anticipated a clearer map of the road ahead.
"I have to talk to Dena, and see if they want to work together,” Independence managing partner Jim McPhilliamy said. “Obviously, we wanted to partner with them, but we'll probably start looking at alternatives, and see where we go from there. We actually paid for the plans that were presented tonight. Matthews is home for 2018, and we’ll see where we go from there. Could be Greensboro.”
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