Mecklenburg County Defers Vote on Charlotte MLS Stadium

Proposed Charlotte MLS stadium

Mecklenburg County is deferring its decision on whether to fund a Charlotte MLS stadium, with officials seeking the city’s commitment to the project. 

Mecklenburg County manager Dena Diorio’s recently-released budget included funds for the proposed stadium, which is being pitched by Speedway Sports CEO Marcus Smith as part of his MLS expansion bid. The budget called for contributions from the county’s Park and Recreation capital plan, including $71.25 million next year.

The facility’s cost estimate is $175 million, and Smith had proposed that the county and City of Charlotte each commit $43.75 million to the project. In January, the county granted its preliminary approval to its funding package in a 5-3 decision, but the city scrapped its vote on whether to allocate revenue from its hotel/motel taxes.

There have been questions since as to whether the city will reconsider the proposal, and some Charlotte officials have stated that other issues should to be prioritized in the months leading up to this fall’s election. Given the uncertain status of the city’s involvement, Mecklenburg County is deferring further its vote on stadium funding until August 2.

This could have some implications for the proposal. Some county officials are emphasizing the importance of the city’s involvement, though Smith says he will continue to work on the effort. More from The Charlotte Observer:

But Monday, Democrat Dumont Clarke said that he also wants the city to agree to spend $43.5 million before he votes for the county to spend anything.

“Why are we budgeting for this when our key partner isn’t willing to endorse it?” Clarke said in an interview Monday. “This gives the city a deadline to see what they will do.”

Marcus Smith said in a statement that the campaign for Major League Soccer would continue.

“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 2nd,” he said.

Diorio said the county commissioners’ decision to delay the vote doesn’t hurt or help. “We’ve always had this discussion that it would be a partnership with the city.”

If constructed, the stadium would be built at the current site of Memorial Stadium and the Grady Cole Center, with the county owning the facility. Charlotte is one of 12 cities in the mix for an MLS expansion franchise, with the league expected to add two teams by 2020 and an additional pair at a later date.

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