Officials: Charlotte MLS Chances are Dead for Now

Proposed Charlotte MLS stadium

The chances of a successful Charlotte MLS expansion bid meeting the league’s timeline are all but dead for now, according to local officials. 

Led by Marcus Smith, the city’s bid included a proposal for a new soccer-specific facility that would be constructed at the site of Memorial Stadium. At one point, the plan called for the stadium to cost $175 million, with contributions from Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte included in the funding model. Mecklenburg County officials decided in August to reject a funding proposal that would have allocated $71.25 million toward the stadium next year and another $30 million in fiscal year 2020, and instead voted to deed the proposed stadium site to the City of Charlotte.

One of the issues, according to Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell, is that the bid cannot have a public-private funding plan for a stadium in time to meet MLS’s timetable for announcing its first two expansion candidates in December. Additionally, Mitchell pointed to the city’s competition when it comes to funding packages being proposed in other cities, including Nashville.

For his part, Smith still wants to see a Charlotte MLS expansion franchise, but has doubts that it can happen without some public funding. More from The Charlotte Observer:

The three problems the city couldn’t overcome were control of the Memorial Stadium site, the fact that city elections are coming up (making a controversial vote on a big incentives package difficult) and stiff competition from other cities such as Nashville.

The $275 million in bonds that Nashville is considering to fund a prospective MLS stadium and improvements nearby are “just unbelievable,” Mitchell said, and set a new standard that was far above what he believed Charlotte could spend now.

Charlotte Motor Speedway CEO Marcus Smith, who heads the ownership group bidding for a team in Charlotte, told the Observer that he is still interested in landing an MLS team, but that it would be hard to imagine doing so without public money.

“Impossible is a big word, but what the city has indicated is that they’re not going to be able to come together with a public-private plan,” Smith said. “It’s sad for the city.”

Charlotte was one of 12 candidates to submit a bid to MLS earlier this year.

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