Mecklenburg County commissioners are scheduled to vote Wednesday night whether to help fund a new Major League Soccer stadium in Charlotte. That discussion could include two compromises - one by the county manager to fund both the stadium and parks projects, and another from commissioners opposed to the MLS deal.
Backers of the bid to bring an MLS team to Charlotte have asked the city and county for about $44 million each to help build a $175 million soccer stadium near uptown, where county-owned Memorial Stadium now sits. The county also would finance about $75 million of the cost, which would be paid back in annual installments of about $4.3 million.
County Manager Dena Diorio wants to cut the county's contribution to $30 million – the same amount the city has been talking about spending. Diorio says in an email to commissioners Monday that the savings and other revenues could pay for 13 long-delayed parks projects that voters approved in a 2008 bond referendum.
Commissioners Matthew Ridenhour, Jim Puckett, Bill James and Patricia Cotham responded Wednesday by suggesting that the county get out of the deal altogether by giving the stadium - or control of the stadium - to the city. They say the city has tourism tax revenue to pay for it. That would let the county spend money on park improvements.
Ridenhour floated the idea on WFAE's Charlotte Talks two weeks ago in an exchange with Mike Burch, chief strategy officer for the MLS bid:
RIDENHOUR: At this point I'm thinking let's just sign it over to the city. You guys have a tourism tax that's dedicated to these types of deals. You look at Bank of America Stadium, Spectrum Arena. I'm almost thinking that maybe we should be out of the business, the county should perhaps be out of the business, of stadium building.
BURCH: And if you didn't have a deed, unfortunately giving it to the county, that prohibits you from doing that, that might be a great solution. But it's deeded as a park and a stadium facility and there's restrictions on what can be done with the property.
RIDENOUR: Actually, our attorneys have looked that over and have actually determined that there may be ways around that.
County commissioners voted in favor of the stadium plan back in January. A final yes vote Wednesday night would add the project to the county's capital projects budget and authorize the county manager to negotiate the stadium deal.
A City Council vote on the stadium is expected in September.
July 31, 2017, County Manager Dena Diorio email to commissioners (PDF)
July 31, 2017, list of remaining unfunded parks projects from 2008 bond referendum (PDF)
Aug. 2, 2017, statement by Commissioners Puckett, Ridenhour, Cotham and James. (PDF)