Charlotte MLS backers asking for $113m in public cash for stadium, isn’t this where we came in?

So, let’s see, anything else been going on while we’ve all been focused on where the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders were going to end up? How about Charlotte, North Carolina being asked for $113 million for a soccer stadium for a team that doesn’t exist yet?

A proposal presented to Mecklenburg County commissioners in closed session last week calls for the city and county to each spend $50 million toward a $150 million stadium in Elizabeth just outside of uptown. The local ownership group of Bruton Smith, the billionaire race track owner, and his son, Marcus, CEO of Speedway Motorsports, would spend $50 million for the stadium.

The county would also demolish Memorial Stadium and the Grady Cole Center to make room for the stadium. The county would also provide the land – assessed at $12.9 million – for the new stadium.

That’s about equally as bad as the historically awful St. Louis soccer stadium proposal that that city mercifully killed earlier this week. If this is the new baseline ask for would-be MLS owners, we could be seeing the gradual end to the days when public subsidies in that league were generally lower than in other sports. (Though if cities keep saying no to them, maybe it’ll just be an indication that no matter if lots of kids are playing soccer now, that still hasn’t translated into the public or politicians feeling like landing an MLS franchise bestows that major “major league” feeling.) Already the Charlotte Observer has raised its eyebrows at the cost, and Charlotte Magazine contributing editor Greg Lecour has urged the city and county to drive a way harder bargain. Though it’s way more likely that MLS just packs up and tries its shtick on the next city down the road. How’s that legislation to end the Economic War Among the States going?

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20 comments on “Charlotte MLS backers asking for $113m in public cash for stadium, isn’t this where we came in?

  1. Even at $150 million its a fraction of what other leagues ask for and usually get. This amount is basically renovation money for the other leagues. This is spring training money for MLB. Your right they won’t get it.

  2. No big deal for MLS if the Charlotte doesn’t work out. After all, there’s about 50 other cities in the US and Canada that would apparently love to have a team.

  3. Good grief this is getting ridiculous. So a multi-billionaire only wants to pay for the expansion fee but want you the taxpayer to cover the bulk of the stadium construction costs. Smith could raise $100 million in his sleep, yet that’s not good enough for him. Every passing day these greedy people shows us more and more about their shallow and selfish selves.

    1. Well, paying $150 million for an MLS team plus $150 million for a stadium would be kind of a dumb investment, given where the MLS is right now. I see this more as Garber saying, “Empty your wallet for the expansion fee, then plead poverty when you go to ask for a stadium.”

      1. I get that but with someone with the pockets that Smith has that isn’t going to fly. The entire MLS model is flawed and it will always be the little brother to EPL, La Liga, and Bundesliga; especially since each of them have nice TV deals and is expanding in popularity. (in the case of EPL, massive TV deal).

        1. Even better, China is usurping part of the ‘growth’ model of grabbing aging Euro stars. Tevez, Pelle, Gervinho, Ramires, Hulk, Oscar, Montero, Witsel… Hell, a lot of these guys aren’t even out of their prime yet.

          Anyway, expansion (diluting talent pool) combined with possibly having to shift to a strategy that relies on developing younger regional talent is going to be a tough sell to casual sports fans.

          Soccer on the whole is doing really well in the US. MLS’ TV numbers continue to be pretty terrible.

  4. Isn’t MLS an acronym for Major League Soccer? Well, in my book, there’s no better example of an oxymoron. LOL

  5. No matter where you stand on public money for stadiums, MLS is a risky bet with their current business model. They’re expanding at a crazy rate without the pool of talent to keep the quality from nosediving, there are real doubts on whether there’s enough dollars where that many teams can make it, and they seem to have no plan for when expansion fees are no longer a major revenue stream for them.

    1. I’m a season ticket holder and some of the games are painful to watch as is. Live it can still be a good experience, but without a better revenue stream or willingness to take even further losses it’ll get a lot worse. Reminds me of the NHL’s first expansion, where a desire from the Original Six to bank expansion fees was a major driver.

  6. There is something that a lot of people here seem to overlook. Team owners would be foolish NOT to ask for public money. Sure, they may get it, or they may not get it. But what’s the harm in asking? I don’t think it’s the fault of team owners for asking for money; it’s the fault of politicians for giving it to them.

    1. I don’t think that’s overlooked. Most of us understand where we – voters – have the most leverage. After all, the askers don’t rely upon getting our votes to keep their jobs. And you’ll have a hard time finding a sports fan who stops supporting a team because they requested a subsidy.

  7. Charlotte-area residents–The two venues they want to bulldoze–are they still heavily used and in good condition?

    1. The stadium kinda sucks but it does have a regular tenant (a lacrosse team). Grady Cole is perfectly functional.

  8. Fact is MLS as it grows is adding development systems with each new team. Those systems are starting to produce players. There are more north Americans playing soccer than football baseball and hockey combined. If those sports call themselves major league with tiny talent pools then so can MLS. Also MLS has 200 plus countries from which to scout talent. They other league are lucky to have a handful of countries that even play the sport. Excluding basketball.

  9. It’s a racket that Sacramento wants a team, has a decent stadium plan and is being told “Your city is team 28 or 29.”


    They cut down to even $100 mill. They’ve done an admirable job spinning this as most news sites don’t seem to include the $13 million in land valuation in the total amount to be given to the Smiths. It’s generally listed as a separate item if mentioned at all.

    Of course the Smiiths have a long history of shaking down local governments for money.

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