Fresh look needed for Coliseum land

The Observer editorial board

The city has hoped to create an amateur sports complex in a parking lot near Bojangles' Coliseum.
The city has hoped to create an amateur sports complex in a parking lot near Bojangles' Coliseum. CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

A deal for a Florida developer to build an amateur sports complex near Bojangles’ Coliseum seems to finally and mercifully be dead. Given the developer’s iffy finances for this project and others across the country, Charlotte officials should chalk this up as a narrow escape from a troubling venture.

But what will the City Council learn from the experience? We’re worried it won’t be much.

In a letter to City Manager Ron Carlee on Thursday, Goodsports Enterprises CEO Jerald Good asked for a year’s delay in continuing “talks and discussions” about the project. The council should take this opportunity to sever the relationship, or at least take a fresh look at what the next step is.

Thus far, however, the council appears to be looking for a new approach to an old solution. Council member Michael Barnes thinks an amateur sports complex could still happen in the spot, a parking lot next to Bojangles’ Coliseum. He said Thursday that the city might look for another partner, or perhaps build the project itself.

The city has the right intentions here. Charlotte’s east side is in need of economic opportunities, and the land next to the coliseum is a prime place for something that could provide the right kind of jolt to a struggling community.

The city also has already invested in the spot. City staffers have put in a significant amount of time on the project, and the city has spent a reported $3.5 million toward it.

But that doesn’t mean Charlotte should throw good money after good intentions. The market is clearly telling the city something about the amateur sports concept. Only one developer, Goodsports, answered the city’s requests for proposals. That developer is having problems finding others interested in the idea, both here and in other cities.

At the least, one clear message should get through: If the market doesn’t think an amateur sports complex is worth the investment, Charlotte should not try to build one on its own.

In fact, this is an ideal time to be open to all possibilities for the spot. As the local and national economy continue to improve, developers might bring forth new and exciting ideas for the east side that wouldn’t otherwise come if the city continues to solicit only for a sports complex.

Changing direction might not be easy for some city officials, who’ve pined for an amateur sports complex for at least a few years. But the country has become dotted with various kinds of amateur sports venues, and there seems to be little appetite, at least privately, to build another. Unless someone with solid backing is ready to underwrite the dream, it’s time to let it go.