Amateur sports complex at Bojangles’ Coliseum on hold

The city’s plan to create an amateur sports complex and hotel near Bojangles’ Coliseum is on hold as the private developer hasn’t yet been able to secure financing, according to emails sent to the city.

For nearly a year, Florida-based GoodSports Enterprises Global has been negotiating with the city to build a hotel and gymnasium in the parking lot near the coliseum and Ovens Auditorium.

During that time, the public’s share of the project has increased and is now nearly half of all construction costs, according to a review of city documents. The latest proposal is for GoodSports to put in less money than it previously proposed, according to a city briefing from this summer.

In April, the city said the financing plan called for city to spend $25 million and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority to contribute $12 million, which would go to renovate the coliseum. GoodSports would spend $60 million, or 62 percent of the project’s costs.

In June, the plan changed. The total amount of public money stayed the same, but its share of the project increased to 48 percent as GoodSports proposed spending $39.7 million, down from $60 million in April.

The city hopes the hotel and field house will help the city increase the number of amateur sports tournaments that come to Charlotte, bringing families and injecting money into the economy. The goal is for the new 150-room hotel and adjacent field house to improve the surrounding neighborhoods.

The field house would be used for sports such as basketball, bowling, volleyball and fencing.

The city hoped to have an agreement ready by the spring of 2014. The city said Tuesday that it’s confident the project will move forward, though the uniqueness of building a sports complex combined with a hotel is likely making financing difficult.

Anthony Homer, vice president of development for GoodSports, cautioned the city in an early September email that it needs to be “100 percent sure we have our financing ... before making further commitments.”

He added he had been directed to “hold off” until financing is finalized. When that happens, Homer told the city that the company will be “ready to move full speed ahead.”

Homer told the Observer on Tuesday that GoodSports is still working to secure financing for the Charlotte project, as well as other planned hotel and field houses in Ohio, Missouri and Kansas. He said the company had financing for those projects, but the lender backed out.

“That timing component is completely dependent on the market,” Homer said. “These types of deals are tricky.”

The Indianapolis Star reported earlier this month that a planned GoodSports amateur sports complex in suburban Indianapolis has been delayed because of funding problems.

Homer said the company is planning to spend less on the Charlotte development because it has reduced the size of the project, reducing the amount of office space and eliminating retail on the site.

He said the development had to shrink to handle parking for the hotel and field house, as well as for Bojangles’ Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium.

“The original project included office and retail,” Homer said. “Because of the parking requirements we have to draw that back. How do we handle peak events?”

Charlotte Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble, who has been negotiating with GoodSports, said he’s confident the city’s partnership will work.

Kimble said the near 50-50 cost-sharing percentage compares favorably to the city’s original plan for the concept more than two years ago.

In the spring of 2012, former City Manager Curt Walton’s capital program called for spending $60 million to remake Bojangles’ into an amateur sports complex.

The public would have paid for $35 million of that project, but most of the money would have been spent on the city-owned coliseum. There were no plans for a hotel.

Pat Mumford, who heads the city’s Neighborhood and Business Services division, said the city’s share of the construction costs may be increasing, but the city will see the benefit from the economic impact from bringing in new tournaments and events.

“That’s where we will get the most return,” Mumford said.

Council member Michael Barnes is the chairman of the council’s economic development committee, which has been hearing updates on the amateur sports proposal this year. He said he wasn’t aware of the public’s growing share of the project since December.

He said he wants to look further at the city’s contribution before any agreement is reached.

“We are continuing to refine the numbers,” he said.

In June, the city’s timetable was to hold a public hearing to rezone the land Sept. 15, with a final vote Oct. 20.

It’s unclear when the rezoning hearing will be held.

The city hasn’t given GoodSports any money yet. But it has spent $3.7 million buying and demolishing the Econo Lodge that was adjacent to Ovens Auditorium.

The city said the hotel wasn’t a crime problem, but that it needed the site for additional parking for the amateur sports complex.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer