Potential taxpayer tab grows for amateur sports complex plan

The potential taxpayer investment in a proposed amateur sports complex near Bojangles’ Coliseum has grown since December, with the city of Charlotte considering spending $37 million – up from an $18 million estimate four months ago.

Sarasota, Fla.-based GoodSports has proposed building a new hotel, retail and a fieldhouse for indoor amateur sports on the parking lot adjacent to Bojangles’ and Ovens Auditorium. The city hopes the project will attract new visitors to the city while giving a boost to the neighborhoods surrounding the arena.

Most of the city’s funding – $25 million – would come from the $816 million capital spending program passed by the City Council last year.

The city said Thursday during an economic development committee meeting that it may also spend $12 million from the county’s hotel/motel tax to renovate Bojangles’ Coliseum, which was built in 1955.

In October, the city issued a request for proposal to developers interested in building the amateur sports complex. GoodSports was the only company to respond.

At a December City Council meeting, the city said GoodSports proposed spending $72 million for the amateur sports proposal, with the city contributing 25 percent of the construction costs – $18 million.

Since then the city has set aside $3.6 million to buy and demolish the Econo Lodge adjacent to Ovens Auditorium. The city wants to use that land for parking.

City staff said the latest proposal compares favorably to a cost estimate two years ago. When the capital spending plan was first unveiled, the city estimated the Bojangles’ project would cost $60 million, with taxpayers putting up $35 million.

The city’s economic development director, Brad Richardson, said the city plans to invest in the project after it is built, which he said would minimize risk to the public. In the past, the city had said it would consider making an upfront investment in the project.

Council member Michael Barnes said he didn’t want the city to own the hotel or fieldhouse because he doesn’t want to be forced to spend additional money to renovate the building. The city is starting negotiations with the Charlotte Bobcats over renovating Time Warner Cable Arena, which is contractually required.

“I would be loath to see us own another building,” he said.

The committee didn’t take a vote Wednesday. The city will likely have several months of negotiating with GoodSports before considering an agreement.

GoodSports has said it plans to build several amateur sports complexes around the country, including in// suburban Columbus, Ohio, and St. Louis.