Meck County leaders pass MLS proposal with 5-4 vote
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Commissioners voted in favor of a plan that could bring Major League Soccer to Charlotte, with a $175 million price tag. The board meeting got underway around 9 a.m. Thursday.
The vote passed in a close 5-4 vote.
Mecklenburg County and Charlotte would split the $175 million, each paying $43.75 million. The investment group of Marcus Smith would pay the other $87.5 million. The county will also loan the team $75 million upfront that will be paid back over 25 years. The deal will last 25 years.
The team is putting $12.5 million in cash up front as well.
However, moments after the proposal was passed, Mayor Jennifer Roberts announced the City Council had canceled their meeting and public forum to discuss the MLS proposal on Friday.
"I am glad that they are being prudent and doing what we didn't do," said Commissioner Jim Puckett. "Shame on us for moving forward with just part of the facts that the city of Charlotte is saying they will not make that decision."
"I could breathe, I could take a breath. It has been a very hard morning," said Commissioner Pat Cotham. "Thank them for their leadership on this. The sun has come up for me."
The debate at the Commissioner Retreat was heated at times with much of the debate revolving around the time in which the deal has been proposed. Several commissioners said it was not nearly enough time for a deal this large.
Other commissioners believe the deal would bring economic development to Charlotte and be a boom for the Elizabeth neighborhood. The County Manager confirmed multiple times Thursday morning that the money for this project would not impact the money for other capitol projects that the county is involved with.
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In many ways, it is a time-sensitive issue because Marcus Smith of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., who's backing the effort, is supposed to submit to application to the league on January 31, which is this coming Tuesday.
With the city putting the breaks on the deal on their end, it is still unclear what the end result will be.
"It is not Tuesday yet, so let's see," said Commissioner Trevor Fuller. "I think this is a good proposal for us, but again it depends on a partnership and if we don't have a partner than we do not have a partner."
Ella Scarborough, the county chair, says she was surprised by the decision of the City Council.
"That was not what I was hearing about the city, so I am surprised by that," said Scarborough. "We are always apprehensive in Mecklenburg County. That is the city and the county. I was on the council when we brought football. I was on the council when we brought basketball. We were having those same conversations and concerns then."
County Manager Dena Diorio said she needed time to speak with the City Manager and said it was too early to discuss possible other options or numbers.
"We need to see if the city will participate in some future date," said Diorio. "They [investors] have talked to the league and not having an affirmative vote from the council does not kill the bid or the deal for them."
Marcus Smith was not made available to the media on Thursday but in a statement a rep for Charlotte Motor Speedway said, "any next steps regarding MLS are still to be determined."
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