Smith submits bid to bring Major League Soccer to Charlotte

Smith submits bid to bring Major League Soccer to Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The head of Speedway Motorsports has officially entered a bid in an effort to bring Major League Soccer to Charlotte.

Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., has been working with city and county leaders, along with community stakeholders in the effort to bring an MLS expansion team to the area.

The deadline to enter a bid was Tuesday.

"Our meetings with community leaders across the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have shown tremendous interest in bringing Major League Soccer to the Queen City," said Smith. "Today marks an important step in realizing that goal. Our excitement has been fueled by the fan and community support that we've seen swell across the region in recent weeks, and I believe our bid firmly positions us as a leading contender for an expansion team."

According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, Mecklenburg County leads the state with approximately $5 billion in annual visitor spending.

"We have long supported bringing MLS to Charlotte," said Bob Morgan, Charlotte Chamber president and CEO. "Among other benefits, soccer is key to our ability to continue to attract young people and those born outside of the United States to our city."

Speedway Motorsports officials point to a statistic from the Charlotte Chamber that states 675 of Charlotte's 1,018 foreign-owned firms are based in Europe, where soccer is wildly popular.

Mecklenburg County officials said yes to spend $43.75 million, but moments after the proposal passed, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts announced the city council had canceled their meeting and public forum to discuss the MLS proposal.

Deal 'Dead on Arrival'?

One Charlotte city councilman called the effort to bring soccer to the Queen City "dead on arrival."

Councilman Kenny Smith feels tax-related dollars connected to tourism are already spoken for.

"We're likely to get a request for the [Charlotte] Hornets, from Discovery Place, and in the NFL world today, I see an actual stadium," Smith said. "I do not think it will be escalators this next go around."

Smith along with the mayor and council members will likely be invited to have conversations with those who are backing soccer as the league decides.

"I think the program as it stands today is dead on arrival," Smith said. "I do not think additional time fixing this based on the existing proposal. I don't see a positive outcome without some parameters in the deal changing."

MLS encouraged bid

Mike Burch, Chief Strategy Officer of Speedway Motorsports, said decision makers with Major League Soccer asked Marcus Smith to move forward with the application.

"They encouraged us to apply and then continue our discussions with the city council to see if we could come to an agreement on a deal," Burch said.

"Right now we're focused on how do we have that conversation with individual council members, listen to what their issues are," he continued. "Working through them kind of reach a point that we all feel good about moving forward with this."

In addition to submitting the official bid, Smith launched the Twitter handle @MLS4CLT and #MLS4CLT to encourage fans and stakeholders to share their support for the project.

Another Carolina bid

Tuesday evening, the North Carolina Football Club announced it had also submitted its application to Major League Soccer as part of the league's process to determine its next round of expansion.

The NCFC, which is based in Wake County, announced its plans to pursue a MLS franchise in December.

"We have made incredible strides in just over a month since we received the MLS application information," said NCFC Owner Steve Malik. "We will continue to pursue our aggressive campaign by rallying the community behind our initiatives as we continue on our parallel paths of securing a new purpose-built stadium and expanding our corporate and individual membership."

North Carolina Football Club will reveal more information about its stadium plans in the coming weeks. Click here for more information about the NCFC bid.

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