MLS Expansion: Setbacks for San Diego and Charlotte

Efforts to secure support for soccer stadiums in two MLS expansion markets took hits on Monday. Bids in San Diego and Charlotte aren't dead, but council actions confirmed there isn't yet support in the markets to get these soccer stadium projects over the goal line.

SAN DIEGO. The San Diego city council voted by 5-4 along party lines to reject a plan to conduct a special election in November 2017. That rendered moot an intended vote on Monday to decide whether to put a tax measure on the ballot to pay to expand the San Diego Convention Center.

The city council will still vote next week on whether to approve a $4 billion plan to redevelop the area around Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley -- the "SoccerCity" project that includes a soccer stadium -- or send the plan to voters in 2018. A petition in support of the measure received more than 100,000 signatures from registered voters.

A week earlier, the city council voted 8-1 to eliminate funding for the special election, projected to cost $5 million. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who backs the SoccerCity project, put the money back in the budget to pay for the special election, though the city council might override his modifications on Tuesday.

If FS Investors, which is developing the project and backing the San Diego expansion bid, has to wait for the next general election in 2018 to take its plan to voters, that won't be until November 2018, perhaps too late for San Diego to be considered for one of the four expansion spots.

CHARLOTTE. On Monday, Mecklenburg County commissioners voted to defer until August a decision on plans to include funds in the county's current budget to help pay for the construction of a $175 million soccer stadium at the site of old American Legion Memorial Stadium (Rodney Marsh's stomping grounds with the ASL Carolina Lightnin') in the Elizabeth section of Charlotte.

The plan as proposed by Marcus Smith of Speedway Motorsports: He would pay for half the cost of the 20,000-seat stadium and Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte would pay for the other half.

In January, Mecklenburg County commissioners voted, 5-3, in favor of a preliminary plan to contribute the county's $43.75 million share toward the stadium and front most of Smith’s half (repayable in lease payments over 25 years), but Charlotte's city council threw a monkey wrench into the deal when it canceled plans for a vote, insisting it would not be rushed into making a commitment.

Mecklenburg County commissioners have now signaled they'll pull out if the Charlotte city council doesn't step forward this summer.

Like with the cost of a special ballot, there are plenty of other things Mecklenburg County commissioners could pay for.

2 comments about "MLS Expansion: Setbacks for San Diego and Charlotte".
  1. Daniel Clifton, June 13, 2017 at 11:49 a.m.

    It is hard for me to imagine Charlotte being a serious candidate for MLS expansion. Although you have Bruton Smith's son pushing it, so obviously there is something to it. Youth soccer has been big in the burbs now for 25 to 30 years. So you have a large number of young adults here who have grown up playing soccer. There is also a pretty large contingent of Hispanic people in Charlote, of whom I live right in the middle of, so there is that part of the population who might attend games. The Charlotte Independence is not drawing very well. The City of Charlotte is looking to do something that will help some of our residents in light of the recent riot or riots in Charlotte. The riots were quite localized. This is a head scratcher for me. I would love to be able to attend live MLS games in Charlotte. I just don't know how realistic this bid is.

  2. Andy Cap, June 13, 2017 at 6:45 p.m.

    Charlotte is not ready for the MLS.
    The fan base needed to make an MLS franchise successful is not that committed in Charlotte. There are too many other sports college and otherwise
    that would take away from the MLS.

    Charlotte residents would choose to watch Tarheels basketball on TV ahead of going to an MLS game.

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