Mecklenburg County released terms of the proposed Major League Soccer stadium on Friday, confirming previous reports by CBJ of a project totaling $175 million for a 20,000-seat stadium and costs divided evenly between team owners and local government.
Dena Diorio, county manager, told CBJ the deal makes sense because it would convert an aging and rarely used property into a new stadium housing a big-league franchise while jump-starting development in surrounding areas. Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith is leading the campaign to land an MLS expansion franchise. Bids are due Jan. 31 and MLS plans to select two expansion cities later this year.
Each expansion team will pay a $150 million entry fee — Charlotte’s would be paid by Smith — and begin play in 2020. Diorio and Smith told CBJ during an interview Friday that construction would likely take 18 to 24 months.
A public forum is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the Government Center with county commissioners hearing from citizens on the possible taxpayer investment in a privately owned sports venture. The county would own the stadium and continue to own the 16-acre site on the edge of uptown that now houses Memorial Stadium and the Grady Cole Center.
Charlotte Center City Partners estimates about 60 acres in and around Memorial Stadium and along the edge of the Elizabeth neighborhood would likely be developed and redeveloped, in part, from momentum created by bringing an MLS team to town. Economists have long disputed the impact of pro sports investments and economic impact touted by teams and politicians, but their skepticism has done little to slow a tide of taxpayer investment in arenas and stadiums locally and nationally.
Neighborhood leaders told CBJ this week they plan to survey residents for opinions on having the MLS move in and those leaders plan to speak at the forum next week. Two days later, on Jan. 26, county commissioners will vote on whether to approve the investment. City and county government would contribute $43.75 million each for construction.