Recently, there has been talk of Charlotte being a potential landing spot for a Major League Soccer expansion team. The City Council should continue its proactive, data-driven approach of determining what kind of public resources to contribute to this endeavor, balancing costs against public benefit – a key promise of the Council’s Community Letter.
We have already seen the tremendous impact that sports and national events have on our economy. Take for example the CIAA basketball tournament, which has generated well over $300 million in economic activity since Charlotte began hosting in 2006. Funding for BB&T Ballpark to host the Charlotte Knights brought robust commerce to uptown. Organized sporting events result in more than $2 billion annually for our economy and support more than 20,000 jobs, a study has shown. Hosting an MLS team in Charlotte would expand what is already a vibrant sector of our economy.
Some council members and residents have expressed concern over where funding for this project would come from given our other areas of need. I understand this concern. However, we need to be clear on how this project would be financed. Any city funding for an MLS stadium would come from a dedicated revenue source, known as the “occupancy tax” – a tax on hotel and motel bookings. Property tax dollars would not be used. The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Why have an occupancy tax if we aren’t willing to use that revenue?
Council will carefully vet this initiative in at least two upcoming Economic Development Committee meetings, the first of which will be Thursday. Our goal is to do more than just build a stadium – we want to create high-impact opportunities that have a lasting effect on Charlotte. Workforce development and minority participation will be an important part of guaranteeing that an MLS expansion team is a win-win for both residents and the business community.
Economic development is a key focus area for the City of Charlotte. As chair of the Economic Development Committee, I want to do everything in my power to bolster our region’s growth and connect more residents to our thriving economy.
Charlotte is quickly becoming a go-to city for businesses, prestigious events and high-impact partnerships. We should stay in the MLS conversation as we transform Charlotte into a winning city.
Mitchell, a Democrat, is an at-large Charlotte City Council member and chair of the Economic Development Committee.