An uptown baseball stadium for the Charlotte Knights appears closer to reality, after a majority of City Council members indicated Tuesday they could vote for a new $8 million subsidy plan that doesnt include a property tax rebate.
Council members wont take a formal vote on the baseball plan until June 11. But the most recent proposal to help the Class AAA baseball team, which was shown to the council Tuesday, seems close to getting a majority of votes.
In its most recent proposal to help the Knights, city of Charlotte staff stripped out a proposed $2.5 million property tax rebate for the team, a feature that had made some council members uneasy.
City staff members instead proposed adding more hotel/motel tax revenues to the project for $7.25 million total along with $750,000 from Center City Partners, an uptown booster group.
The Knights, who currently play in Fort Mill, S.C., want to move to uptowns Third Ward for the 2014 season. The team has said a new stadium would double its annual attendance, to 600,000.
Supporters have also said it would transform that side of uptown with new apartments and restaurants.
The team originally asked for $11 million from the city. Its already getting $8 million from Mecklenburg County, plus county land valued between $20 million and $24 million.
City staff first proposed giving the Knights $9 million, and then revised that to $8.5 million. That plan would have used $6.5 million from the countys hotel/motel occupancy tax revenues and a $2.5 million rebate of the stadiums future property taxes.
But some council members balked at the property tax rebate, in part because they are considering a $926 million capital building plan that would be funded by an 8 percent city property tax increase.
The new plan tries to avoid that controversy by cutting out the property tax rebate.
There are still four of 11 council members who have said they will vote against the stadium plan or who have been highly critical of it: Democrats Michael Barnes, Beth Pickering, Patsy Kinsey and Claire Fallon.
Changes win some over
But Tuesdays changes appeared to win some council members over.
Democrat John Autry, considered a swing vote on the project, said he would likely vote yes. Republican Warren Cooksey said the use of hospitality taxes which can only be used for tourism purposes would produce new property taxes for the general fund.
And Republican Andy Dulin, who was once a firm no vote, said he could support it. He said one reason is that the city has protected itself financially, and that the Knights wont receive any money unless they finish the stadium and play baseball uptown.
Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat, doesnt vote with the council, though he could veto the subsidy. Foxx said Tuesday that hes still ambivalent about the proposal, but hasnt said whether he would use his veto if the council passes the measure.
When I think about the future of our city, I dont think the lack of baseball is a threat, Foxx said.
After the meeting, Foxx said the citys capital plan is more important for the citys long-term future than baseball. Council members will also vote on the capital-spending plan June 11.
Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble, who has been negotiating with the Knights, told council members he believed the Knights couldnt pay for any more of the stadium from the teams own money.
The city said the Knights would be responsible for $38 million of the stadium project, which has a total cost of $74 million.
I dont think the project can go forward (without city help), Kimble said. Thats what the Knights are telling us.
Knights general manager Dan Rajkowski told council members that without city money, the team would return to Fort Mill and re-evaluate.
Some council members were concerned the city was spending too much of the hotel/motel tax money, which would put other projects in jeopardy.
Kimble said the city had made sure it could afford money for baseball and still meet debt obligations.
Kinsey said she was still concerned about the subsidy plan, even with the property tax rebate eliminated.
However we slice the onion, its tax money, she said.