Mecklenburg County has approved a major renovation to Charlotte’s Memorial Stadium, positioning the facility to become the home of the Charlotte Independence (USL).
As part of a $32-million capital project, Mecklenburg County will proceed with a major overhaul to the 82-year-old Memorial Stadium. The plan calls for the Independence to begin playing at the renovated stadium in 2021, marking the beginning of a 10-year lease agreement that will also come with two five-year options that could extend the deal.
With a recent vote, Mecklenburg County commissioners decided to move ahead with this plan. Along with landing the Independence, officials hope that a renovated Memorial Stadium will attract more events to the area. More from The Charlotte Post:
The 8-1 vote for the Park and Recreation project (Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour voted against) kicks off with $3 million in fiscal year 2018. Renovations will be fully funded by the county, but discussions are ongoing with the city of Charlotte and Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority to contribute $8 million toward the initial cost of the proposed synthetic turf field.
“I’m hoping we’ll do more with this stadium,” Commissioner George Dunlap said. “I haven’t been to a CIAA championship football game in a long time, and I’m hoping we can do something to attract them, since their headquarters are here as well. I’m looking forward to the renewed rivalry between Johnson C. Smith and Livingstone College being renewed at this stadium.”
Memorial’s primary tenant would the Charlotte Independence of the United Soccer League and Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse, both owned by Jim McPhilliamy. While the Hounds currently play at Memorial, the Independence would move there in March 2021. McPhilliamy has been pushing for stadium renovations to get the Independence into Memorial since launching the club in 2014. They currently play at the county-owned Sportsplex in Matthews, which would become their practice facility once Memorial is refurbished.
“We’ve moved our whole office over to Elizabeth Avenue,” McPhilliamy said. “We’re part of the community over there. Matthews is our home for the next three years, and we’re going to keep training down in Matthews.”
There had been considerable discussion in the past about the Independence eventually moving to a renovated Memorial Stadium. Previously, the county was considering a $24-million renovation of the facility for the club, with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, county and Independence each contributing $8 million toward a 10,000-seat facility that could be expanded for MLS. However, the focus on Memorial Stadium’s future changed after Charlotte’s MLS bid–led by Marcus Smith–called for demolishing it and replacing it with a new $175 million venue. After MLS efforts stalled, officials turned their attention to the latest Memorial Stadium plan.
For much of the 2017 USL season, the Independence staged home matches at the Matthews Sportsplex, a facility located in nearby Matthews, NC. The club is playing there again in 2018.
Rendering courtesy Mecklenburg County.
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