Effort To Bring MLS To Charlotte Suffers Another Setback As City Rejects Stadium Site Offer
Charlotte's effort to bring MLS to the city has "run into another major obstacle," as the City Council's Economic Development Committee on Thursday "declined to vote on an offer from Mecklenburg County Commissioners to deed the Memorial Stadium site to the city," according to Katherine Peralta of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts noted the offer "included contingency language that it must be used for MLS." This comes two weeks after county commissioners "voted to give the city the stadium site, and withhold any additional funding" for the proposed $175M stadium. The remaining balance -- more than $100M -- for the 20,000-seat stadium will either have to be "covered by the ownership group," called MLS4CLT and headed by SMI President & CEO Marcus Smith, or the city. MLS4CLT said that the group "remains optimistic about its chances of landing an expansion team" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/18). Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell, who heads the Economic Development Committee, said, "Soccer's not dead, but it's definitely dead at Memorial Stadium." In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg reported the full council will vote on Sept. 11 on the "county proposal considered by the committee on Thursday." It is "all but certain the 11-member council will follow the committee recommendation and decline the county offer to provide the site to the city." The committee on Sept. 14 will then begin what Mitchell "referred to as 'MLS 2.0,' a reboot that will slow down the process and seek public input, analyze public-private partnership roles and revisit 12 potential stadium sites." Those moves "likely quash Smith's hopes to land a team in December" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/17).
PLAYING PARTNERS? In Nashville, Joey Garrison reports Vanderbilt Univ. is expected to decide early this fall if the school "wants its football team's next home to be an off-campus stadium shared" with a prospective MLS expansion club. John Ingram, who is heading the city's MLS bid, said that an answer "will need to come by the time a formal stadium proposal is presented to the Metro Council for approval." Ingram and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry are "working on an aggressive timeline to get a project approved" in time for MLS' expansion decision in December. Barry's office "plans to file legislation with the council for a stadium funding plan within 30 to 45 days." Vanderbilt AD David Williams said, "They want to go to council in October with a plan. ... At that point in time, the size of the stadium, the cost of the stadium, the involvement of the stadium needs to be set. So, I would think that, yes, that would be the timetable" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 8/18).
NO PLACE TO CALL HOME: SOCCER AMERICA's Paul Kennedy notes of the 12 MLS expansion candidates, none has "come farther in a shorter period of time than Cincinnati." USL club FC Cincinnati has "shattered all attendance records for minor-league soccer" and "drew three crowds larger than 30,000" for its home U.S. Open Cup matches. However, that "won't be enough if it can't come up with a stadium solution." FC Cincinnati currently is a "tenant at Nippert Stadium," which is owned by the Univ. of Cincinnati. FC Cincinnati is "examining three sites" at which it might build a soccer-specific stadium where it would "control such basic things as filed dimensions and field markings and playing dates but most important, all revenue streams" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 8/18).