County Commission OKs $32M Renovation For Memorial Stadium

Dec 20, 2017


Updated 4:13 p.m.
Mecklenburg County Commissioners voted 7-2 Tuesday to spend $32 million on a renovation of Memorial Stadium near uptown. The plan for fixing up the 81-year-old site comes after a stadium deal and bid for a Major League Soccer team failed. 

The plan calls for the county to pay for the renovations by itself.  County manager Dena Diorio says the county has the money and doing so would give it full control of the stadium.

County Manager Dena Diorio talked to commissioners Tuesday.
Credit Mecklenburg County

"If it's our asset that we pay 100 percent of the cost then we get to decide how it gets used, when it gets used and we can lease it to whomever we think makes the most sense for the county," Diorio told commissioners. 

Most commissioners were OK with that. But first, they want the manager to look for partners. Those could include the city of Charlotte, the Charlotte Regional Convention and Visitors Authority, and the minor-league Charlotte Independence soccer club.

Independence owner Jim McPhilliamy told WFAE Wednesday he remains interested, either as a partner or a tenant.  "We are very interested, as we have been for four years," he said in an email.   

The commission vote comes a year after negotiations with the Independence were interrupted by a Charlotte bid for a Major League Soccer team.  That bid included a proposal to replace Memorial Stadium with a $175 million, 20,000 seat professional soccer stadium.

The county had hoped to share the costs with the bidding group, led by Marcus and Bruton Smith of Speedway Motorsports in Concord, and the city of Charlotte. But the city council declined to join and the county commission ended up reversing its decision to join the project. 

The Smiths were unable to come up with an alternate site and last month were not among the four cities chosen as finalists for two new MLS teams. 

The renovation would provide seating for 12,450, including 7,400 fixed seats, bleachers and hillside seating. It also includes new restrooms and concession stands, and a new press box.

A new Veterans Memorial Plaza would be constructed facing Charlottetowne Avenue , to honor local veterans. It would preserve an existing stone wall on the site.  

The two "no" votes came from Republican commissioners Matthew Ridenhour and Jim Puckett. The were concerned about the price tag for the project, and the lack of additional funding sources.   

The new stadium is expected to take two years to complete.  

The Independence compete in U.S. pro soccer's second division, and currently play at the Matthews Sportsplex. 

Memorial Stadium opened in 1936 in the Elizabeth neighborhood. It has hosted everything from high school football and concerts to professional soccer and lacrosse, before falling into disrepair in recent years. 

RELATED LINKS

Dec. 19, 2017, see the county manager's presentation about the renovation (PDF) 

Q&A ABOUT THE MEMORIAL STADIUM PROJECT