Charlotte MLS Backers Plot Next Step After City Backs Out

MLSIn the aftermath of a tumultuous Thursday, backers of an MLS expansion team in Charlotte must decide their next step. 

Over the course of Thursday morning, Charlotte’s pursuit of an MLS franchise–which is being led by Bruton and Marcus Smith–took a new turn. Shortly after Mecklenburg County voted to move forward with a plan that includes a $43.75 million contribution to a $175 million stadium, the City of Charlotte scrapped its vote. The vote, which would have taken place Friday afternoon, had become a contentious issue among Charlotte officials, as sentiment against the plan grew this week.

Many officials have contended that the process for obtaining a franchise and securing a stadium has been rushed, and the pressure had mounted this week because the January 31 deadline for applications was drawing closer. That deadline is still a must for the Smiths, but some are wondering how–if at all–the plan will proceed from here. More from The Charlotte Observer:

Earlier on Thursday, Mecklenburg County commissioners voted 5-3 for a plan that would tear down Memorial Stadium and Grady Cole Center in Elizabeth to make way for a new $175 million Major League Soccer stadium. They also voted to spend $43.75 million toward construction, and on a financing plan in which the county would loan Smith $75 million. That money would be paid back over 25 years.

County manager Dena Diorio said she assumes the county vote is still valid but has asked for the county attorney’s opinion.

If that’s true, Smith has land for a stadium, a subsidy and an operating agreement in which the county and the team contribute to maintenance costs.

If Marcus Smith and his father, Bruton Smith, move forward, would they be willing to cover the city’s $43.75 million themselves? Or would they continue to ask the city to help fund the stadium? That’s not clear.

Earlier this month, the Smiths revealed that their plan, which initially called for $50 million in contributions from both Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. That number was later reduced to $43.75 million.

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