Developer Calls Off Amateur Sports Complex - At Least For A Year
The City of Charlotte has spent more than a year working with a private developer on a new amateur sports complex around Bojangles Arena and Ovens Auditorium. As talks dragged, skepticism from City Council grew, and now the deal is off, at least for a year.
Just a month ago, an executive from GoodSports pitched the deal to the city council’s economic development committee: “It’s the right time; it’s the right place; and, I know we’ve got the right team.”
Under the proposed deal, the city and GoodSports would have roughly split the $77 million cost to build a new hotel and field house around Bojangles Coliseum. They hoped it would lure amateur sports competitions to the area, and revitalize it.
But the committee found a very different message from its potential partner yesterday, in the form of a letter from CEO Jerald Good.
The letter suggested the right time is next year, and for now the right place is Wichita, Kansas.
“Their suggestion today in the letter is that they postpone for one year further conversations,” deputy city manager Ron Kimble summarized.
Instead, Good writes that the company will focus on construction on its similar, but smaller, development in Wichita. That project, and several others across at least four states, has experienced delays and financing struggles. In fact, while GoodSports has proposed building 25 amateur sports complexes across the United States and has signed at least three contracts to do so, it has yet to complete one.
While city officials expressed confidence in the company and its financing in Charlotte, city council members grew skeptical, and the company faced heated questions in the economic development committee’s last meeting.
The letter from Good, and his request for delay, references those concerns:
We are currently working diligently to break ground on the construction of a Fieldhouse and Fieldhouse Hotel in Wichita, Kansas this spring with a planned opening of the Fieldhouse portion in November, 2015. Building of the Fieldhouse will help answer the question “where is there a GoodSports facility we can visit and see in person?” Therefore, I am suggesting that we curtail, for a period of one (1) year, any future talks or discussions with regard to the [request for proposal] to bring youth sports to Charlotte. We remain very serious and dedicated to this opportunity in Charlotte … However, it appears it might be prudent to revisit the proposal down the road.
Council members made it clear they are not interested in waiting and directed staff to explore other options.
“I really look at this as an opportunity,” said councilwoman Vi Lyles. “If there is a market, if the private sector has something to bring forward, we’re going to look very seriously at it.”
Charlotte has already bought and razed an EconoLodge in the area, which city officials have called “blighted,” to make room for the project. Separately, another $16 million from the city’s hospitality tax will upgrade the Coliseum, replacing seating, and adding new scoreboards and display. That will prepare the arena for the minor league hockey team, the Charlotte Checkers, to return there, but it also factored into the amateur sports deal.
City officials say those preparations will help revitalize the area, whether an amateur sports deal takes place or not.