City considers expansion of Knights stadium project

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The debate over whether taxpayers should help build a Knights stadium has been dragging on for a while now, but city officials just heard what might be the wildest pitch yet -  project much bigger than a stadium.

Charlotte Center City Partners chief Michael Smith presented a plan that included a $300 to $400 million dollar development over the next ten years including homes, shops, restaurants and bars all built around the potential future home of the Knights.

"The introduction of a ballpark into this neighborhood will be a super catalyst for development.," Smith said.

It's unclear how much the city would need to kick in, but after poor results at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, officials are clearly worried about taxpayer opinion.

"That's what I'm very concerned with," said City Council At-Large Member Claire Green Fallon. "They've been through a lot. They've been lied to. They've been given projections that never should have been given. And they don't trust us anymore."

Before the idea of a this project can even be entertained, though, the stadium must be built, and the Knights asked the city to kick in $11 million.

If they can't get it, the team could lose their lease on the county-owned land.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James said in an email that the Knight's "income is not sufficient to pay the mortgage on a stadium estimated to cost $50 to $60 million....the Knights need a government subsidy and the county has told them no way."

In fact, the county passed a prohibition against using property tax dollars to build the stadium, though it would provide $8 million for sidewalks and other connections.

James says it's a bad idea for the city to bail out the Knights.

But prominent economist John Connaughton studied the potential impact of the stadium uptown, and he thinks it's promising.

He says construction would create 233 jobs, and spending inside the stadium would support an additional 309 jobs every year.

He also believes fan purchases of food, drinks, gas and other items outside of the stadium would support 181 jobs around town.

City officials say they'll make their decision soon.