Charlotte MLS Backers Look to Reengage City

Proposed Charlotte MLS stadium

Months after it declined to vote on a funding request, backers of a proposed MLS stadium in Charlotte are hoping to involve the city in the process.

The MLS expansion bid in Charlotte is being led by Marcus Smith, who proposed a funding model for a new stadium that would be located on the site of Memorial Stadium and the Grady Cole Center. What ultimately surfaced was a funding model that called on Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte to each contribute $43.5 million toward the $175 million stadium.

The county voted to move forward with the proposal, but the city did not, as it scrapped a vote that was to take place in late January. At that point, the timing of the proposal was something that concerned city and officials. Though efforts to obtain the franchise did continue, Charlotte has not come forward with a funding commitment.

There is still a chance, however, that the city could resume its involvement in the process at some point. Smith says that he is continuing to engage with the city about the proposal, but did not state what terms could be in play if it decides to become involved in the process. More from The Charlotte Business Journal:

“City Council is having an opportunity to think more about the opportunity for the community and provide input,” Smith told me. “There are a number of things that could happen over the next few weeks or months. As we spend more time with the league and the community, our excitement about the opportunity hasn’t waned. We’d love to see this happen for Charlotte.”

He declined to disclose any specific terms of what’s been discussed. James Mitchell, a council Democrat who leads the economic development committee, told CBJ this week he is hopeful council members will be more open to a soccer investment once the budget is approved in June.

Council members in January pointed to other priorities, such as building more affordable housing and increasing job opportunities, as paramount following riots and protests last year over economic inequality. With initiatives started in some of those areas, soccer boosters hope the timing is better next time around. They also balked over a tight deadline: MLS gave investor groups in Charlotte and other cities six weeks to submit bids, including detailed plans for building and financing a stadium.

Smith didn’t disclose any specific details about whether or how the pitch to the city could be changed to make it more palatable.

While there is still some time before MLS makes any decisions, the status of expansion proposals should become clearer over the next few months, making it a priority for Charlotte–or any contending city, for that matter–to get its stadium situation in order. Charlotte was one of 12 markets to submit an expansion at the end of January.

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