Mecklenburg County leaders are looking for partners to renovate Memorial Stadium

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County commissioners voted 7-2 Tuesday night to spend up to $31.7 million to renovate Memorial Stadium.

The goals of the project would be to create a great place, strengthen the neighborhood and provide recreational and entertainment value. Commissioners Jim Puckett and Matthew Ridenhour believe that is a lot of money for the county to foot the bill alone.

"While I appreciate that we can fully fund it, I don't know that is the best option," Puckett said.

Commissioners now want County Manager Dena Diorio to try and find partners who will help the county pay the price to renovate Memorial Stadium. Taxpayers agree with the county to find some assistance.

"Anything that will save my taxes is fine," Businessman Larrie Sweet said.  "A step in the right direction."

Sweet remembers when Memorial Stadium was the site for big events.  He has owned a business near the stadium for more than 20 years. He thinks the stadium can be popular again.

RELATED: Here is Mecklenburg County's plan for a new venue to replace Memorial Stadium

"I think it's underutilized and probably if it had bigger capacity, it would see more utilization," Sweet said.

While the county manager is busy finding interest, one Charlotte city leader is eager about a partnership. James Mitchell is an at-large city councilman and chair of the city's economic development committee.

"I like the concept. I like the idea. I like high school football games being there and the Battle of the Bands. It's time we upgrade an important asset to our community."

Mitchell says in previous discussions the city was willing to pay $8 million for stadium renovations, no word if city leaders are willing to go higher.

Some county leaders believe more needs to be done when it comes to how the stadium upgrades will be paid for and who it will benefit.

"If we are going to spend this money we ought to get something out of it than just that we have a new building," County Commissioner Trevor Fuller said.

Fuller is also concerned about the message it sends that the county now has millions to invest in a stadium.

"We're ready to spend $30 million when there are people in our community who need jobs," Fuller said. "There are people in our community who need affordable housing and we have no problem talking about $32 million for a stadium, but when it comes to providing those types of needs, well, we don't have the money."

County Manager Dena Diorio says there is a positive to the county paying solely for the renovations. She says the county wouldn't have to talk it over with other possible partners when the county could use the stadium.

"We think it is the county's best interest to have total control." Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said.

Diorio says she will meet soon with Charlotte Independence about a partnership concerning minor league soccer coming to Memorial Stadium. No word when the manager will talk to Charlotte city leaders and other groups.

If all goes well, the county manager will recommend a deal. If commissioners can't agree on the details, the county is prepared to pay for the renovations alone.

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