Mecklenburg County's request for the city of Charlotte's help paying for artificial turf at a renovated Memorial Stadium is moving forward. Members of the City Council's Economic Development Committee voted 3-1 Thursday to recommend the project to the full council.
Under the proposal, the city would contribute up to $3 million in tourism tax revenues toward the work. That's less than the $8.3 million the county had requested previously.
The county commission approved a $31.7 million renovation plan last December - with a grass field. The proposal calls for tearing down and rebuilding the stadium, with a larger field and 12,000 seats - slightly more than now. It would reopen in 2021.
Former deputy city manager Ron Kimble is helping the city on the deal. He said the larger field is needed for two pro sports tenants - the Charlotte Independence soccer club and the Charlotte Hounds lacrosse team.
The Independence have agreed to pay the county and annual fee starting at $185,000 and rising yearly, an $8,800 fee per game, plus a portion of ticket and other sales.
Kimble said artificial turf would be more durable and make the field available more days than grass, especially during rain weather.
In exchange for the financial commitment, the city would get free use of the renovated stadium five days a year for 15 years, Kimble said.
Council member LaWana Mayfield was the only no vote. She said the city has too many other financial commitments with other sports and entertainment facilities. And she wondered if the city needed more free dates at another venue, as it has at Bank of America Stadium and other sites.
Council member Braxton Winston is not a committee member and didn't vote. But he came to express his concern about installing artificial turf - saying many athletes don't like and worry it causes more injuries.
Committee chair James "Smuggie" Mitchell urged fellow committee members to vote for the idea.
The full city council is expected to consider the deal the partnership next month.
EASTLAND MALL PLAN REVIEWED
The committee spent much of the meeting on another major project - the redevelopment of the old Eastland Mall site. Members discussed criteria for picking one of four proposals submitted, including developers' experience and ability to raise the millions of dollars they'll need to construct their projects.
The city has considered other proposals since buying the 80-acre site in 2012, including a movie studio, but none have worked out. In March, four developers presented proposals to the economic development committee. All are mixed-use projects with themes ranging from the arts and sports to millennial housing and family entertainment.
Those proposals include:
- One from Charlotte-based Crosland Southeast for what's described as a walkable complex of shops and offices, with lower-priced housing targeting millennials.
- Eastland Community Development Group also wants to target millennials. That plan calls for housing, shopping, dining and entertainment and a sports complex including indoor soccer.
- Legacy Family Group proposes shops, restaurants, and housing, including about 35 percent workforce housing. That plan also calls for an arts and cultural center, skating rink, movie theater, and fitness center.
- And the group Greater Charlotte Multiplex 4 Families wants to develop only 10 to 15 of the 80 acres with family-oriented elements—an entertainment complex, a child development center, film studios, a movie theater and an amphitheater.
The mall closed in 2010. The city bought it two years later and it was demolished in 2013. Other developers have proposed uses for the site — including three last fall — but none have ever come to pass.
The council subcommittee will continue looking at the proposals and make a recommendation at its next meeting May 24.
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