County officials on Charlotte MLS stadium: If city won’t spend money, maybe we won’t either!

When last we checked in with billionaire racetrack owner Bruton Smith’s demands for $100 million in stadium subsidies and free land for a new soccer stadium in Charlotte, the county had approved its half, but the city council was balking at the deal, so everything was on hold. And now … pretty much still the same thing, actually:

In a setback for Major League Soccer in Charlotte, the Mecklenburg County commissioners pushed back a decision on spending $120 million for a new soccer stadium until August – and some commissioners don’t want to invest unless the city also contributes…

Monday, Democrat Dumont Clarke said that he also wants the city to agree to spend $43.5 million before he votes for the county to spend anything.

“Why are we budgeting for this when our key partner isn’t willing to endorse it?” Clarke said in an interview Monday. “This gives the city a deadline to see what they will do.”

Okay, technically maybe this is a change of direction, from “we’ll approve our share of the money, but nothing is going to happen until the city approves its share” to “until the city approves its share, we’re not going to approve ours either,” but the upshot is the same: no stadium for now because the rich guy who wants it is demanding that more than half the cost be paid by taxpayers, and city officials aren’t crazy about that idea. Maybe that will change after city elections this fall, maybe not. Either way, it doesn’t sound like Charlotte will be a contender in the round of MLS expansion set to be announced later this year, but since MLS expands pretty much every Tuesday, that’s probably not a big deal — and certainly not a reason to accede to demands for $100 million in cash, if anybody on the Charlotte council was thinking that.

21 comments on “County officials on Charlotte MLS stadium: If city won’t spend money, maybe we won’t either!

  1. Fifteen expansion teams in fifteen years. Seems like a lot of Tuesdays went lacking.

    • Some weeks the expansion committee can’t decide what lunch to buy with its $150m.

      • After they get lunch out of the way they spend what’s left on player development , training centers etc. Oh that’s right most US leagues get those items paid by local cities and school districts.

  2. MLS appears to be doing the same thing that buried the NASL: Handing out expansion teams the way Mom and Dad handed out candy to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Gotta love that expansion fee revenue but the residual effect of adding teams for the sake of adding teams is typically dilution of talent and overall quality of play while franchises in cities that have no good reason to have a team in the first place become ongoing problems before folding. This is hardly limited to the NASL or MLS.

    Interesting that even as a cash cow like the NBA is reportedly talking about contraction (fewer teams to spread that TV money among), a league representing a second-tier sport in the USA wants to grow-grow-grow. Yeah, this should go real well once the novelty wears off.

    • I think the current idea is to keep expanding until the TV money catches up, but that’ll be hard since the soccer TV money wants to watch the European and Mexican leagues and TV money is going down in general. As much as I like going to MLS games (RFK is dirt cheap, super sad DCU is leaving), my guess is that this who thing doesn’t end well once they hit a natural maximum like 30 or 32 teams.

      • The TV money isn’t going to catch up. Even the EPL is getting nervous about the next round of renewal. They get 4/5 their TV money from SKY the British equal of ESPN. What will probably happen is other leagues will get less as MLS gets more. So the difference won’t be as great.

  3. I remember when they did the expansion with Portland and Vancouver, how they had the whole process, winnowing cities down, etc. for about a year, made their decision, and then just added Montreal a year later anyway because they’d pay the same fee, with no process.

  4. Yes . They talk about contraction but never do it ! MLS did it with Tampa & Miami. NASL sold teams to millionaire & MLS sells to billionaires. That’s the BIG difference. Diluted talent ? The quality of play has gone up with every round of expansion. The talent pool is planet wide and not limited. Unlike the NHL Vegas team which will indeed dilute talent via a draft. Expansion teams are bringing in players already on their roster and signing players from around the world. That’s why Atlanta United is competing their first year at a high level.

    • I am confused as to why you think the hockey talent pool is limited, but soccer is not? Soccer certainly has many many more players. But there are also many many more jobs to fill.

      The talent pool is less limited in that the NHL is the top level of hockey so if you want the similar players you can only take ones from worse leagues. So MLS has that going for it in that it is a very mid tier league and with enough money could conceivably get players from above its level in addition to below. How likely that is in the long term with China also making a big splash is interesting.

      • Every league of every major sport in the world is trying in make inroads into China. The only ones that have had any real success have been the NBA thanks to an 8ft freak of nature & the EPL. That isn’t going to change. The amount of government subsidies and infrastructure needed to spread sports like baseball , hockey & American rules football is mind boggling.

      • As to talent pool , there are about a million player from youth on up playing hockey in the US & Canada. Maybe another million worldwide. 80% of the NHL is North American. Therefore if there is an expansion team added most of the players will be North American and from existing NHL teams . Just assume hockey was really worldwide. Instead of 2 million player pool you had a 200 million player pool. At least 90% of players currently in the NHL would be playing in Europe or unemployed.

      • To put simply if the money is = a player will choose MLS over China. Limits have been put on foreigners in China. There none in MLS that I am aware of. Teams from around the world are scouting US players not China youngsters.

        • The US teams are limited to 3 non-US players and the Canadian teams are limited to 3 non-USnon-Canadian players.

          There is some wiggle room in that if a player has a green-card he doesn’t count as foreign and slots can be traded between teams so one team may have 1 and trade the slots to another team for 5. But those are the MLS limits.

          • OK. Sure seems like some teams don’t have any US born players on field at times. NYCFC. But if they’re allowed to trade slots it makes sense.

          • If MLS is spending big money to bid on the occasional foreign player, it’s because they think this will make their teams more attractive to U.S. fans and help them sell more tickets. There’s no way they’re looking at windfall public subsidies and saying, “Hey, free money, let’s go spend this on some European players who will never repay their contract price instead of just pocketing it!”

            (Unless the MLS owner are idiots, which is always a consideration. But which would make handing them money in the hopes it will trickle down to a better product on the pitch even more foolish, IMHO.)

          • Not sure what the end game is but, public subsidies isn’t it. The EPL has spoiled viewers with a level of play that is higher than World Cup soccer. Most of MLS expansion goes back into players & development etc. They salary limit is much higher than reported . The league is signing much younger foreign players and starting to develop much more quality American players that they can sell for profit. I think its a balance act until they have another generation under their belt. At that point they have ticket price leverage and TV money might be closer their real competition. The other top ten leagues in the world.

  5. Therefore the hockey talent pool is limited just as the NFL & MLB. However sports that are truly worldwide can scout the corners of the planet to find quality players capable of magic. 70% of MLS are from outside of North America even though there might be as many as 30 million north Americans playing the game. Soccer & basketball have millions of pick up players that aren’t registered players. That’s a big difference to hockey , baseball & football were you never see a pick up game and all players are registered with organized leagues.

  6. Steven,

    Find it a bit improbable that player development is much more “paid for” by MLS than other sports do. MLS gets players from clubs, high schools, colleges, and other teams’ development programs.

    If that’s the long term plan, MLS might be better off playing in smaller existing stadiums rather than wasting their own and the public ‘s funds in expensive downtown stadia.

    • You might have a point. In early 2000’s MLS relied on college talent and product was unbearable to watch. Since then they’ve gone after the best available talent they can afford. Most have been foreign players. If cities continue to throw billions at the other leagues it would be foolish not to at try and get 50-100 million.

    • Your wrong on money spent on player development by leagues. Almost 100% of NFL players have been developed on the taxpayer dime. Its pretty high for the NBA. However MLB & NHL have much higher development budgets. In soccer around the world they have deep development systems that include children as young as 6yo.