Despite finding itself on shaky ground, MLS’ visit to Charlotte on Tuesday was a positive experience for league officials.
While MLS president Mark Abbott did not meet with county officials to discuss funding of a potential soccer-specific stadium, he did have a good meeting with local business and community leaders, reports the Charlotte Observer. While the stadium plan remains a key component of each MLS bid, community support and market strength are also key factors, and Abbott appeared impressed with what Charlotte had to offer.
“I couldn’t help but be struck by how proud they are of this community – and justifiably so – and the sense of unity that I saw … not only in their desire to bring Major League Soccer here but in their desire to continue to build a great community,” said Abbott
Marcus Smith, lead owner of the Charlotte bid, has been working to drum up support with his #MLS4CLT campaign. The MLS visit was closed out with a rally in First Ward Park featuring music and games, as well as distributed #MLS4CLT shirts, with an estimated 200-250 people in attendance.
“Lots of companies in town have shared their interest with me. They think it’s a great addition to Charlotte’s sports and entertainment landscape,” Smith said.
Still, questions over funding remain. With the city balking at a requested $43.5 million in tax revenue going towards the stadium, they stated the maximum they’d be able to contribute would be $30 million. City council members and Mayor Jennifer Roberts believe the plan is too rushed to be considered, and favor pushing a vote off until after this fall’s elections. This is in conflict with Mecklenberg County, however, who’ve given the city a deadline of August in order to decide, or risk losing County support.
“I don’t know where they will come out,” Smith said. “We will cross that bridge when we come to it.”