Tepper asks Charlotte City Council to fund MLS stadium

Council received first briefing on funding a standalone soccer stadium at closed session meeting Monday
Published: Sep. 25, 2019 at 1:07 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Members of the Charlotte City Council got an initial request to fund a stadium for a Major League Soccer team in Charlotte during a closed session meeting Monday night.

Early Tuesday, WBTV spoke with two people briefed on the request, both of whom requested they not be named in order to discuss details of the closed session meeting, which, by law, are not public.

The city council convened its meeting early on Monday night to allow more time for a closed session.

The two people told WBTV the closed session was for council members to receive an initial pitch to build an MLS facility in Charlotte.

Both the plan and request for city funds came from representatives of David Tepper.

On Tuesday afternoon, WBTV spoke with a third source with knowledge of Tepper’s request, who, like the first two people briefed on the proposal, asked to not be named in order to discuss sensitive and ongoing discussions between the city and Tepper.

All three sources confirm to WBTV that Monday night’s closed session meeting centered solely on a plan to bring MLS to Charlotte.

A key point of the plan, all three sources confirmed, was funding for a facility where an MLS team would play.

During the meeting, those presenting the pitch outlined a request for between roughly $100 million and $200 million in city funds for the facility, which would host a future soccer team and not also share a space with the Carolina Panthers.

Unlike the first two sources that WBTV spoke with, the third source clarified the city funds would be used to upfit Bank of America Stadium, where the Panthers currently play, to convert it to a soccer stadium.

According to the third source, improvements to the facility would include adding tunnels at the center of the stadium and converting the football locker rooms into soccer locker rooms, among other things.

Like the first two people WBTV spoke with, the third person confirmed the meeting was solely about soccer and did not include any mention of football.

Monday’s presentation was the first time council members were pitched the details of Tepper’s MLS project, the sources said.

While council members did not take a formal vote at the conclusion of the presentation, they did give approval for city staff to continue exploring options to fund the project.

According to one of the sources involved in the meeting, council members had a number of questions in response to the proposal. Chief among the concerns was seeking a guarantee that Tepper would not move the team away from Charlotte in the future.

Council members also asked for more details on how the potential facility could be accessed and used by the community outside of sporting events.

There were other concerns from council members about how much tax funding would be available to fund not only this request but other future sports projects, including a new or renovated football stadium.

A spokesman for Tepper did not immediately return phone messages from WBTV seeking comment for this story.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a city spokesman issued the following statement:

“City Council went into closed session to discuss matters relating to the location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area. Due to the sensitive nature of these discussions, open meetings law allows City Council to protect the privacy of these discussions. While these discussions are ongoing, City Council will have no comment. Should these discussions progress to the point where City Council is required to take formal action on the matter, that discussion and action will take place in an open public meeting.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include additional reporting which, among other things, clarifies the nature of where and how the MLS stadium would be built.

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