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City Council Closer To Supporting Uptown Baseball

The Charlotte City Council is closer to spending tax dollars on a new baseball stadium Uptown. But the amount the city is willing to put toward the $54 million structure is shrinking and one of the plan's biggest boosters is now being asked to cough up some cash. At least three of the city's 11 council members are still strongly opposed to putting tax dollars into the project. Councilwoman Claire Fallon is unconvinced a baseball stadium just down the street from Bank of America stadium will do much for the city's economy. "If development was gonna come around a stadium, it would have come around the Panther's stadium, which it never has," noted Fallon, during a city council discussion on Tuesday. "So what makes you think it'll come around this stadium? Because I don't think it will." Fallon's criticism goes to what may have been a fatal flaw in previous funding proposals for the stadium. They called for the Charlotte Knights to get a rebate on their property taxes, plus take a cut of taxes paid by other developments that cropped up around the stadium. That didn't go over well with the council, so property taxes are now off the table. Instead, the city would contribute $8 million - not the $11 million the Knights originally requested. Most of the money would come from existing hotel and restaurant taxes earmarked for tourism-related projects including the mortgage on Time Warner Cable Arena. Sharing some of that money with the Knights will be a tight squeeze, says assistant City Manager Ron Kimble: "We do believe this is the maximum amount we could contribute to baseball." The other key difference in this latest funding plan is that $750,000 of the city's portion would come from one of the stadium's biggest cheerleaders - the nonprofit Center City Partners, which is funded by a special tax of Uptown businesses. The proposal appears to have won the support of several council members who've been on the fence. Councilman Warren Cooksey likes the fact that the city won't pay a dime until the stadium is finished and that the Knights will be paying about $575,000 a year in property taxes to the city and county. Mayor Anthony Foxx remains ambivalent about funding the stadium in light of the recession and the high-profile troubles of the NASCAR Hall of Fame: "I'm trying to decide whether right now, with a public that has watched us go through some other very difficult decisions in the last several years - and with projects quite frankly in the recent past that haven't gone as well as they were advertised - what do you say to those skeptics?" Foxx asked Knights General Manager Dan Rajkowski. Rajkowski responded: "What I would say is that 21 years ago this franchise moved to South Carolina. Today, we have an opportunity to bring this business back to North Carolina." It'll bring jobs and significant economic impact, promised Rajkowski. "Is the timing ever perfect?" he added. "I don't know. But I think that the timing is now." On June 11, city council members will decide if they agree.