The city of Charlotte says it won’t meet Tuesday with executives from Major League Soccer who are touring the city and considering Charlotte for an expansion team.
City officials had planned to meet with MLS President Mark Abbott and other executives as of Monday morning, but by mid-afternoon, they had reconsidered. Last week, Mecklenburg County commissioners canceled their meeting with MLS amid questions over whether such meetings should be open to the public.
The Major League Soccer visit to Charlotte comes as elected officials consider a controversial plan to use taxpayer dollars to help fund a new $175 million MLS-specific facility on the site of Memorial Stadium in Elizabeth. Behind the bid to bring an expansion team here is a group called MLS4CLT, headed by race track executive Marcus Smith.
The city’s corporate communications office said City Manager Marcus Jones will not meet with MLS, nor will any elected officials or city staff. The city did not say why the meeting had been canceled.
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Meanwhile, MLS4CLT is readying for a 5 p.m. rally in First Ward Park to drum up excitement among a potential MLS fan base. Food trucks – including The Dumpling Lady, Now Toasted Food Truck, Carolina Smash Truck, Rollin’ and Two Scoops Creamery – will be on site, as well Blue Blaze Brewing Company. A band called the Empire Strikes Brass will provide entertainment.
Among the guests invited to Tuesday’s rally is Charlotte Independence President Jim McPhilliamy. MLS4CLT declined, however, to share the agenda of a “full day of events” for the MLS visit, including other speakers at the rally. The schedule is expected to include a visit to the stadium site and introductions with several community leaders.
Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio still plans to meet with MLS Tuesday.
Last week, Republican commissioners said any meeting with county officials should be public. Diorio told them that MLS officials had requested a private meeting, and that she would cancel any meeting before opening it to the public. (MLS officials said last week, however, that they hadn’t asked that the meeting be private.)
The city’s economic development committee will discuss Thursday a proposal to help pay for a new stadium in Elizabeth. The city has said it could contribute $30 million toward a new stadium, which is down from $43.5 million contribution that was being discussed earlier this year.
The public relations firm Luquire George Andrews said Monday it will be “introducing MLS officials to community leaders throughout the day but have no formal meetings planned with elected officials.”
The group said it will participate in “public forums with city and county leaders at the appropriate time.”