The owner of the Charlotte Independence soccer team said he would spend $8 million toward a $24.8 million rebuilding of Memorial Stadium in Elizabeth, which would give his minor-league soccer and lacrosse teams a home near uptown.
Mecklenburg County has proposed rebuilding Memorial Stadium, which was built in the 1930s. The biggest change would be making the field wider to accommodate soccer.
Jim McPhilliamy, president and managing partner of the Independence, said he could have probably built his own stadium somewhere else for less than $8 million.
“Frankly we could build something standalone and cheaper and own it, but it’s such a great location,” he said. “I don’t think you could find something like (Memorial Stadium) anywhere else in the country.”
McPhilliamy’s lacrosse team, the Hounds, currently play at Memorial Stadium. The Independence play at Ramblewood Stadium, a temporary venue, off Nations Ford Road.
Under a proposal being discussed with the county, he would have an agreement to use the new stadium for a certain number of days in exchange for his $8 million. The county and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority would pay for the rest of the rebuilding, under the proposal.
The stadium now has about 20,000 seats.
The county’s plan calls for a smaller stadium, with 10,870 seats. There would be about 4,900 general admission seats, 1,100 club seats and 3,600 grass berm seats.
Memorial Stadium has a stone wall that rings the field. Under the new plan, the wall would be preserved, though it would have to be rebuilt piece-by-piece because the field needs to be widened to make it 75 yards across.
If money is available, construction could begin in mid-2018. It would last 18 months, according to the presentation.
Construction would cost $22 million. If the county decided to install synthetic turf instead of grass, that would add another $2.8 million.
County commissioners heard a presentation on the plan Wednesday night.
County Park and Recreation director Jim Garges said his staff will discuss the plan with the Elizabeth neighborhood as well as the Historic Landmarks Commission.
“I feel pretty good about it,” Garges said about the plan.
The plan calls for the stadium to have synthetic turf.
McPhilliamy said the Independence and Hounds were initially opposed to not having natural grass, but he said the high usage planned for the stadium means it’s probably needed.
“We understand why it’s required,” he said. “We just want to make sure the turf is the highest quality turf.”
McPhilliamy said the rebuilt stadium could be expanded if the city ever landed a Major League Soccer franchise.
“That would need public support again,” he said. “We can cross that bridge when we get there.”