New Memorial Stadium rebuild relies heavily on county taxpayers. - | WBTV Charlotte

New Memorial Stadium rebuild relies heavily on county taxpayers. Here are the details.

This is a rendering of a new 12,000-seat stadium in Elizabeth, on the site of Memorial Stadium. (Mecklenburg County) This is a rendering of a new 12,000-seat stadium in Elizabeth, on the site of Memorial Stadium. (Mecklenburg County)
CHARLOTTE, NC (Steve Harrison/The Charlotte Observer) -

Memorial Stadium in Elizabeth is getting a $32 million rebuild, and will become the home of the Charlotte Independence soccer team and Charlotte Hounds lacrosse team.

But the project relies heavily on county taxpayers — much more than a tentative plan from 2016 that would have required the city and the minor-league teams to contribute most of the money. Mecklenburg commissioners approved the plan in an 8-1 vote Tuesday.

That earlier concept called for a $24 million rebuild of the aging stadium. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority would have used tourism taxes to contribute $8 million and the Charlotte Independence would have paid $8 million. The county would have paid the final $8 million.

The plan calls for the county to pay for all $32 million. It will own and manage the stadium.

The CRVA may help pay for a new artificial turf field, but there is no formal agreement with the county yet.

The two minor league teams will pay rent and share revenue with the county, but their projected 10-year total payments are expected to be about $1 million less than the $8 million floated earlier.

Under the lease agreement approved by Mecklenburg commissioners, the teams will pay $185,000 in rent for their first season in the new stadium. That will increase by 3 percent a year, and will total $2.12 million over 10 years.

In addition, the teams will pay the county a rental fee of $8,800 per game. They are expected to play 30 games a year in the new stadium. Those rental fees are scheduled to increase by 3 percent a year.

The county will receive 15 percent of the revenue from parking, concessions and naming rights. The county will also get $3 from every ticket order placed online. That surcharge doesn't include tickets bought at the stadium.

The county estimates it will receive, on average, $700,000 a year, or $7 million over the first decade.

Mecklenburg Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, a Republican, voted against the stadium deal. He didn't like the price increasing from $24 million to $32 million.

"Ultimately it came down to the price tag," he said. "A few months ago we were presented with the $24 million option — then there was the $32 million concept."

Ridenhour said he wished the stadium could be scaled back, with the money saved going to other park projects, such as a new recreation center or greenway.

Ridenhour said he's also concerned why the CRVA hasn't committed more to the project.

The CRVA is funded with hotel/motel taxes and taxes on prepared food and beverage taxes that are set aside for projects like stadiums.

"Everyone is wondering why they are only contributing to the turf," he said.

The CRVA said this week that it's "still in conversations" with the county about the stadium.

Assistant County Manager Mark Foster said the $24 million proposal from 2016 was never a concrete plan.

"We were never able to secure the original deal," he said. "You really can't compare them. It's not an apples to apples to deal. (The first deal) didn't exist."

Last January, the county considered a massive rebuild of Memorial Stadium for a proposed Major League Soccer team that Speedway Motorsports executive Marcus Smith was pursuing. But the City Council was reluctant to support that plan, and commissioners voted last summer against that plan.

They then returned to the more modest rebuild.

The county said it may hire a firm to design and build the stadium, which could take nearly three years.

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