Council promises funds for Eastland, approves River District Tennis Complex

The commitment of taxpayer dollars raises questions about potential Bank of America Stadium Renovations
The Council discussed proposals in both the River District and the old Eastland Mall site in Monday's meeting.
Published: Jun. 12, 2023 at 10:46 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte council members unanimously approved reserving roughly $30 million for the future Eastland public-private partnership Monday night. They also approved the River District tennis complex project that will cost taxpayers another $65 million.

The projects were unaimously approved by a mostly enthusiastic city council, but it also raises questions about public funding for future projects like the city’s football/soccer stadium.

By approving the resolution on Eastland funding, members put to paper a promise East Charlotte residents had been asking for. Council still has to select one of two sports-related projects to move forward with.

“We’re doing something amazing tonight to make sure that we can protect the funds that will belong to the potential project to East Charlotte.

The resolution vote came just one week after WBTV’s report raising questions about the city’s ability to pay for the project.

“This was a pre-requisite for me to support any other hospitality fund request. Because eastland has been sitting there for over a decade,” Councilmember Dimple Ajmera said.

Council also voted to approve the tennis complex public-private partnership for the River District in West Charlotte. City leaders gave reassuring projections showing the project could attract major tennis tournaments, jobs and tourists.

“This is something that usually doesn’t come around,” Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston said.

The tennis complex comes at a cost of $65 million dollars from public funds.

Out of the $95 million total combined for the Eastland project and tennis complex, $85 million will be bonds paid for from the Convention Center Tax Fund.

That’s the same fund dedicated to paying for construction of a potential new or renovated football stadium.

In May WBTV reported that council was briefed on a possible $1.2 billion stadium renovation planned by Tepper Sports and Entertainment that could cost taxpayers $600 million.

But at the council meeting it became clear the convention center fund does not have capacity to meet that amount. After accounting for the Eastland and River District tennis funding, Charlotte CFO Teresa Smith said the Convention Center Tax Fund has the capacity to take on $260 million in debt if it was issued today.

The Convention Center Tax that will pay for these projects is set to expire in 2034, according to city staff. There have been efforts to change state law and extend that until 2060 but that hasn’t happened yet.

On Monday, council was solely focused on the impact the other two projects could have on the community and the economy.

“We are going to struggle with how do we use our hospitality funding, we’re going to struggle with how traffic works and at the same time we have to come together with the idea that the people in this city deserve the ability to have jobs,” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said.