Charlotte’s Major League Soccer announcement is expected soon
Charlotte is very close to an announcement about Panthers owner David Tepper landing a Major League Soccer expansion club.
On Thursday, the MLS Board of Governors met in New York to discuss expansion markets. As expected, officials heaped praise upon Charlotte. And as has been the case for months, officials also said there’s a bit more work to be done.
Why it’s not quite a done deal yet: Specifically, MLS needs assurance that Tepper can make significant changes to Bank of America Stadium in order to accommodate pro soccer. New locker rooms, equipment to facilitate certain camera angles, a central tunnel.
Garber said the league is in “very, very advanced discussions with Charlotte,” Garber told reporters Thursday afternoon. The league authorized the expansion committee to enter into what Garber expects to be the final negotiations with Tepper to land the 30th team, he added.
But, “no formal approval was granted today,” Garber said. “What was approved was the expansion committee to meet with David and his staff to try to finalize an agreements.”
But also why it’s essentially a done deal: Charlotte’s competing with Las Vegas and Phoenix for the league’s 30th expansion team. But Charlotte — and Tepper, the NFL’s richest owner — emerged in recent months as the favorite.
“It’s fair to say Charlotte has done a lot of work to move their bid to the front of the line,” Garber said in November. “It starts with David Tepper, passionate about our sport and very passionate about Charlotte.”
The Panthers declined to comment, adding that “we have to respect the process.”
City officials have said they will consider around $100 million-$110 million in public funds to pay for the stadium uplift.
They’d like to do that before the end of the year, which means city council’s opportunities to approve such incentives are limited. There are city council meetings on December 9 and 16th, though the latter is a rezoning meeting. The city will also need to have the public weigh before a vote on incentives, too.
The local rumor mill: Back in Charlotte, the local media breathlessly reported each new development detail on the bid. Rumors swirled about the fate of MLS in Charlotte. Would MLS schedule a flashy announcement in Uptown? Is city council about to approve an incentives package?
WCNC reported that Garber is “hopeful” but not confident on a city council vote. WSOC reported that there was request from MLS officials to shut down South Tryon Street Uptown in front of the Mint Museum on December 16-17.
After all, MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche has said that “any announcement of a future MLS expansion club will take place in the city of the new team.” So presumably, the closure could be related to an announcement.
But City council wasn’t looped in on that plan, if it was even real, and neither was Center City Partners. It’s still unclear whether it’ll happen or not.
Mayor Vi Lyles tweeted a statement that didn’t actually reveal much — other than it’s too soon to celebrate.
“No city staff nor any elected officials are attending those meetings and any discussions about decisions that may be made at that meeting are premature at this time,” she said.
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