Crucial Moment for Charlotte MLS Bid

CHARLOTTE, NC — The make or break moment for a stadium proposal that could land an MLS soccer team for Charlotte will come Thursday. That’s when Mecklenburg County commissioners vote on whether to kick in almost $44 million. Without those funds, the plan will be dead in the water.

“The MLS is in a fortunate position in that they’ve got more demand for these franchises than the spaces available,” says Mike Burch will Speedway Motorsports.

If Charlotte wants a Major League Soccer team, this is it.

10 cities were selected by the league to compete for 4 spots. Two for the 2020 season. Two more likely for 2022.

A group led by Marcus Smith with Speedway Motorsports must have a bid, that includes a new, $175 million stadium, into the league by January 31st.

It’s a timeline that Burch says potential MLS cities didn’t get until mid-December.

“We all realized we had a lot of work in front of us,” says the Chief Strategy Officer for Speedway Motorsports. “And there’s been a lot of good work done by a lot people on both the city and county side to get to this point that, you know, it’s a deal that we all feel is a win, win, win for all three parties involved.”

Smith and company would pay a $150 million franchise fee to MLS, and half the stadium construction costs. The city and county would each chip in $43.75 million.

The county would own the facility. The team would have a 25-year lease.

Economic studies say the city and county would get significant return on investment. But some feel using any tax dollars to build a new stadium would be unwise, and point to privately funded stadium projects in Orlando and Los Angeles.

Burch says the circumstances are different in Charlotte, and that the Charlotte deal fits the league model.

“About 50% public funding if you look at across the board,” says Burch of MLS stadium financing. “So this is right in line with what the league, as a whole, has been doing.”

Mecklenburg County commissioners will vote on the deal tomorrow morning. If they do not approve the proposal, Charlotte’s MLS bid is done.

Charlotte city council is holding a public forum and vote on the proposal Friday.