We’re in the clutches of that rare fairyland we occasionally get here called the Promenade of the Mirages.
It is an only-in-Charlotte phenomena, a mystic cyclone that unleashes grand visions of engineering and imagination, shiny things so bold and sleek that even the most flinty of skeptics among us is moved to mutter, “Wull, garsh.”
Its onset is unpredictable, but its harvest is rich.
Past figments that have marched through our midst like the circus parade of yore have included ski resorts and movie magic in the ramparts of old Eastland Mall, a deck covering the John Belk Expressway through uptown upon which a sweltering park would be built, a whitewater raft course dug beneath North Tryon Street (I still mourn that one) and many other bubbles bobbing toward the chasm of broken dreams.
Nothing can explain the great windfall of phantasms pinwheeling before us now. It is a record shimmering season.
There is a notion to burrow a subway beneath the peaks of uptown, talk of new destinations for the streetcar, an interest in leavening of the curse of I-77 toll lanes and the hot neon magnetism of a pro soccer stadium.
Now we all know that the soccer stadium is absolute nonsense, a complete non-starter, an affront to all logic. So it must be built.
Look, we have our traditions. Whenever someone wants to build a sports arena, we yap and cluck, then humbly accede to their demands. There’s a window somewhere at City Hall labeled, “Submit arena plans here, ring bell, then open bag.”
We’ve done pretty well on the last few venues. Mr. Richardson’s bowl is among the elite of small-market NFL stadiums (with the best escalators in the league, thank you very much), the Spectrum Center (or whatever it’s calling itself this week) keeps its neighborhood lively and the modest BB&T Ballpark is the busiest addition to Charlotte since Price’s Chicken Coop.
No, of course this soccer thing makes no sense. You get no vibe that people are slapping themselves on the head, regretting moving here without first checking to see if the city is represented in the pro soccer universe, whatever that is.
You might meet someone who’d say, yeah, they’d probably go to a game. Then you ask them, “or how about Netflix and chill instead?” Yeah, well, since you put it that way ...
But we need the stadium because we’re tired of pointing to the NASCAR Hall of Fame as our signature debacle. It is so 2004. We need a new investment calamity. It will unify us for a decade.
Uptown subway? I love it. But it’s a billion dollars and it’s not happening, even if we partner with Carowinds for a “Pirates of the Caribbean”-type water feature, meaning we can pay for it out of the magic pot that never runs dry, the one known as the tourist tax.
Train line to Lake Norman? Too costly, even though the tracks are already there!
New horizons for the streetcar? Ridership is off this year, and the fare is free. Negative trending.
No, soccer’s the next big thing. Ask your nearest billionaires. They’ll say they like it. Let’s get aboard now. Soccer needs to be our G-o-o-o-o-l!