City Committee Declines County's Offer Of Memorial Stadium For MLS
Updated 4:33 p.m.
A Charlotte City Council committee voted Thursday to decline Mecklenburg County's offer to transfer ownership of Memorial Stadium to the city for a Major League Soccer stadium.
The vote came at a meeting of the council's Economic Development Committee.
The county commission decided two weeks ago not to help pay for a new MLS stadium on the site. Commissioners voted instead to offer the old stadium to the city, if it would be used for a soccer stadium.
Charlotte is among a dozen cities competing for two new MLS expansion teams to be awarded this year. The local ownership group MLS4CLT is led by Marcus and Bruton Smith of Speedway Motor Sports in Concord.
The Smiths had asked the city and county for about $45 million each to help build a new $175 million soccer stadium on the Memorial Stadium site.
It’s not clear whether the full council will take up the issue. City spokeswoman Brittany Clampitt said: “The vote was strictly about the county’s offer to deed Memorial Stadium. There was no recommendation or vote today to put anything related to the stadium or MLS before the full council.”
The MLS has told bidders it wants a modern, dedicated soccer stadium in or near downtowns. MLS4CLT issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying it’s still hoping to win a deal with local officials:
“We are confident there is a solution that will bring Major League Soccer to Charlotte and are working hard to make this happen. To win an expansion club, we need a strong public-private partnership to demonstrate Charlotte’s enthusiasm for the sport and league. We remain convinced that Major League Soccer would bring jobs, entertainment and economic benefits that will add to the region’s vitality.”
County Commissioner Jim Puckett helped push the idea of giving Memorial Stadium to the city and has opposed county participation in the MLS stadium. He said in an email Thursday: “If the city has no need for the stadium as related to MLS I am hopeful we can revisit the chance to engage with the Charlotte Independence for a renovation that will be a great asset for the county.”
The Independence are Charlotte's existing professional soccer team, playing in the second-level of U.S. soccer. The team had been trying to work out a deal to use Memorial Stadium last year before the MLS bid emerged.