Charlotte’s $100m MLS subsidy wins county approval, but city kills it

One day ahead of a scheduled Charlotte city council vote on $43.75 million in subsidies to billionaire racetrack owner Bruton Smith for a proposed $175 million MLS stadium, Mecklenburg County approved kicking in its own $43.75 million plus $13 million in free land — only to have the city immediately cancel its own vote, apparently because stadium supporters had determined the proposal wouldn’t pass:

City Council’s cancellation after the county vote on the $175 million stadium threw the deal into limbo. A council majority had been expected to oppose the deal. A “no” decision by the city would have killed the deal.

Mayor Jennifer Roberts said in a statement that “while this (proposal) is very promising, it is clear that we are not prepared to move forward at this time on the current soccer proposal.”

Since the mayor, you’ll recall, had said she didn’t have time to have her staff testify before a council hearing on the stadium plan, the only council hearing was scheduled for today before the vote, and that’s canceled now as well, so we can’t really say what councilmembers’ objections were (one announced she didn’t approve of “the location in addition to the other things,” which doesn’t really help), or whether they could be swayed by a revamped deal. County manager Dena Diorio said yesterday that “we don’t have a city partnership right now, so I need to go back and talk to the team ownership to see what they want to do at this point in time.” All those who think the answer is “reach for their wallets and pull out a spare $43.75-million bill,” raise your hands!


3 comments on “Charlotte’s $100m MLS subsidy wins county approval, but city kills it

  1. One of fundamental problems with subsidy plays made before/to governments is that the only outcome that is definitive is a “yes” vote.

    If a council or other municipal, state or federal body defeats a motion to provide a stadium, operating or other type of subsidy, the beneficiaries of the proposal simply changes a couple of lines and resubmit it (perhaps along with increased spending on “pro subsidy” campaigns).

    Some districts have restrictions on how soon a given proposal (be it an MLS stadium, a statue of the guy seeking a subsidy to construct a statue, or a waiver of commercial taxes on a commercial building used for commercial purposes) can be considered again. But this is not common in my experience.

    Even in locations where such restrictions exist, the applicant need only modify his/her proposal enough that it “looks” different and can be considered.

    Contrast this with a “yes” vote… where even a vague, incomplete or “cost uncertain” plan becomes a binding contractual arrangement to pay anything that the beneficiary of the agreement can reasonably argue should be the municipality or state’s responsibility under same.

    It is the equivalent of being morally and legally compelled to purchase a car the minute you walk onto a dealer’s lot and read any portion of the window sticker, even if the price isn’t shown. And don’t forget that in a few years when newer and better models come out, you’ll be required to pay to make your current model just as good.

  2. Not to mention the opposing “pitcher” can become your hitting instructor after they leave office and teach the relief pitcher how to lob the ball to you.

    Was that a tortured enough analogy?

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