CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As talks about bringing an MLS team to Charlotte ramp up, the agency that oversees tax funds to pay for sports stadium construction and renovations says they’re out of the loop.
In September, WBTV reported that Charlotte city council members received an informal request for city staff to continue negotiating possible Bank of America Stadium renovations to accommodate an MLS team.
At a board meeting Wednesday morning, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tom Murray told board members that CRVA is not involved with City of Charlotte staff in discussions about MLS or potential renovations to Bank of America Stadium.
“In the past many of you know that I was involved in the MLS project but today we are not, so I don’t have anything to report,” Murray said.
Murray made the comments when updating CRVA board members about news reports on potential renovations to Bank of America stadium to accommodate an MLS team. WBTV was told by multiple sources that the cost of those renovations could be north of $100 million. Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper is in negotiations with the MLS to bring a franchise to the Queen City.
When asked by a board member if they could receive more information on the MLS project discussions, Murray said he was working to “build trust” with the City of Charlotte.
“It really has to do with building trust back with this new leadership team with the city and I’ll continue to try to do that,” Murray said.
Later Murray walked back those statements to WBTV saying that the relationship and trust with city leaders is there, as evidenced by funding city council approved for the convention center renovations.
“I should have more appropriately worded what I said,” Murray said. “It’s about building relationships with new members of the team.”
It is unclear how much of the money for a potential Bank of America Stadium renovation would come from Charlotte’s Convention Center Tax Fund and Debt Service, which is managed by CRVA. Murray was clear to point out to board members that ultimately city council makes final decisions when it comes to how to spend that money.
But board member Vinay Patel said he would like to receive more information from the city about what might be asked of the CRVA.
“As a board our responsibility is to be good stewards of this money,” Patel said.
“But as a board we should be aware.”
“I’ll certainly pass that on to the leadership over there and let them know there’s some concern on our board that we’re not involved in there,” Murray responded.
Murray clarified that he does not have specific details about the proposed Bank of America renovations but he did offer insight into what has been discussed in the past, including a possible request for a new football stadium.
“There’s talk about a new football stadium and so there’s obviously challenges in putting $100 million or $200 million in a stadium you’re going to replace in the near future. So there’s I’m sure a lot of debate on it,” Murray said.
Charlotte city council members have requested more information on how much money is available in the Convention Center Tax Fund, the debt capacity for those projects and other potential projects in the hopper. WBTV has also requested that information.
But Murray empathized with City Manager Marcus Jones in why it might not be prudent to release that information.
“I can see the perspective of the manager,” Murray said. “If you show people how much the fund balances are then you know how much money that you could negotiate with if you’re the negotiating party.”
“I think in this case the manager’s trying to keep control of this situation to keep this from becoming a big issue in the press until we know what we’re doing,” Murray said.
WBTV reached out to the City of Charlotte communications team to request a comment for this story. As of this reporting, WBTV has not received a response.
In a previous statement city officials had said they would not comment on MLS negotiations.
September Statement from City of Charlotte: “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.”