CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It has been a hot topic for months now. The possibility of Major League Soccer in the Queen City.
After a heated debate Wednesday, Mecklenburg County Commissioners voted to essentially walk away from the issue, leaving it up to city leaders instead.
The stadium itself is now part of the deal, as well as the Grady Cole Center. City officials wanted funding from the county. Instead, the county offered up Memorial Stadium as a gift.
If there is to be a new stadium in Charlotte for an MLS franchise, it will be up to the City of Charlotte to build. After months of discussing plans to split the cost between the city and Mecklenburg County, county commissioners decided in a 5-3 vote not to be part of that type of partnership.
“They (City of Charlotte) manage Bojangles’ arena, they manage Ovens Auditorium, they manage stadiums, they have a division within the city that deals with pro sports teams,” said County Commission Vice Chair Jim Puckett.
The new soccer stadium is reported to cost about $175 million to build, with $100 million of that having to come from somewhere else, such as taxpayer money or from the owners of a franchise that comes to Charlotte. Additional funding could also come from a group that brings soccer to the Queen City.
The only thing that’s for sure is that it won’t come from the county.
“I think getting us from out from under this thing is a smart move,” said Commissioner Bill James.
MLS has said if Charlotte does not offer a new soccer-specific stadium, the league will go elsewhere.
In settling with a 5-3 vote, the Board of Commissioners says that by giving the gift of Memorial Stadium to the city allows them to fund other projects in other areas across Mecklenburg County.
Pat Cotham was among the commissioners who supported giving Memorial Stadium to the city, rather than putting up the money.
"It makes more sense for the city to have the whole deal," said Cotham, adding that county money needs to go to certain core projects.
"Parks and schools and greenways," Cotham said. "I want to focus there."
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