Council QuickiesNews & Opinion

Council Quickies: City to Pay $650 Million Toward Stadium Upgrades

June 24, 2024

Charlotte City Council on Monday voted to move forward with a $650-million investment in proposed upgrades to Bank of America Stadium
Charlotte City Council on Monday voted to move forward with a $650-million investment in proposed upgrades to Bank of America Stadium. (Courtesy of Tepper Sports & Entertainment)

Charlotte City Council met for a business meeting on Monday, with much of the night taken up by discussions around the final vote on whether the city will pitch in $650 million to go toward proposed upgrades to Bank of America Stadium

On the Agenda:

  • Strategic Energy Action Plan Update
  • Public Forum & Other Business Items
  • Bank of America Stadium Upgrades Discussion & Vote

Strategic Energy Action Plan Update

Sarah Hazel with the city’s Office of Sustainability and Resilience led a presentation on the city’s Strategic Energy Action Plan (SEAP). She highlighted a new interactive SEAP Dashboard launched by the city this year in which you can explore local data involving emissions by sector and energy type. 

Though originally set as an aspirational goal, the city may hit its goal of zero carbon projection from city-owned buildings by 2030, said Hazel. Less than 20% of the energy used in said buildings currently is coming from carbon-producing sources.

The city aims to implement federal grant funding to launch Solarize Charlotte-Mecklenburg, with a goal to increase solar installations by reducing barriers and costs through education and group purchasing power, including funding direct solar installations for low- and moderate-income homes. 

With community engagement, assessments, analysis and reviews taking place through the fall, council is expected to review and adopt the Solarize Charlotte-Mecklenburg campaign in the coming winter.

The city also plans to launch a new GreenPrints program this year that will identify potential projects, programs and partnerships along the Corridors of Opportunity involving air quality (clean transportation/infrastructure), energy efficiency, pollution, tree canopy, urban cooling and flooding.

That program will launch along Beatties Ford and Freedom/Wilkinson corridors later this year, though Hazel said the city hopes to launch it on the all the Corridors of Opportunity. 

Public Forum & Other Business Items

Following a speech from Nicholas Thomas with Reimagine Reentry, multiple speakers addressed council as they have for months about the limitations of the current Animal Care & Control shelter, pleading for more funding and a better shelter.

Christine Edwards, founder of Civility Localized, addressed council about the launch of her company’s new Civic Impact Academy, which aims to connect community members with their governing bodies through a 10-week educational experience.

Council unanimously approved $2.5 million in funding toward construction of the Katie Blessing Center, a 70,000-square-foot mental health care facility with 72 inpatient beds located across Central Avenue from the former Eastland site.

From the team that brought you StarMed Healthcare, the Katie Blessing Center will treat youth patients and is projected to be the state’s largest pediatric behavioral health care facility when opened.

Later in the night, council would also vote unanimously to authorize Charlotte Water to sell unconditioned biogas recovered from the wastewater treatment process to the highest bidder to be converted to renewable natural gas in support of the city’s Strategic Energy Action Plan.

Bank of America Upgrades Forum

A number of people representing the local business community spoke in support of the $650-million investment for Bank of America Stadium upgrades, citing economic impacts and a number of other factors.

Following last week’s speech from Muhsin ‘Moose’ Muhammad, on Monday Jonathan Stewart became the second former Panthers star to ask that council approve the stadium upgrades.

A rendering shows the South Lawn outside of Bank of America Stadium post-renovation
A rendering shows the South Lawn outside of Bank of America Stadium post-renovation. (Courtesy of Tepper Sports & Entertainment)

The first speaker to oppose the upgrades, Scott Bryan said she thinks the main issue with the vote is the lack of time given between the release of the details and the time for voting.

“If a democracy is like a forest then council is cutting down its largest trees when our democratic tenants of due process and transparency go ignored,” said Bryan.

Grace Fendrick asked council, if the deal is so good, why are private investors not jumping to get a piece of it? She suggested the city has more power and leverage than its elected leaders have been willing to use. “Call their bluff,” she said, referring to Tepper Sports & Entertainment. “Vote no!”

Bank of America Upgrades Discussion

“You can argue about the numbers but we expect to have a $1.2-billion economic impact which goes to support those who work in the travel and tourism industry – waitresses, busboys, small business owners, Uber drivers all will feel the impact of this deal,” said Malcolm Graham, the first council member to speak after the forum. 

LaWana Mayfield asked council to consider adding language that would bring a finalized contract back in front of council for approval after it’s negotiated but before it’s signed.

Dimple Ajmera said the small number of people supporting the upgrades are often those who will benefit financially from it, but the overwhelming majority of residents she has heard from do not want the deal, though a large number of them simply want more details.

Ajmera added that she herself had not seen the economic impact report and, though was given a report that laid out the details of the stadium upgrades plan, she was not allowed to take it home to study it. “That is not the same thing at all.”

“I’m expected to cast my vote on the largest investment of public funds in Charlotte’s history, a $650-million investment, without all facts before me. I simply cannot do it, my conscience will not let me,” Ajmera said. 

Ajmera made a substitute motion similar to Mayfield’s request to bring any deal that’s worked out with Tepper Sports & Entertainment (TSE) back before council before it is finalized. 

Rendering of a new concourse food hall included as part of planned renovations at Bank of America Stadium
Rendering of a new concourse food hall included as part of planned renovations at Bank of America Stadium. (Courtesy of Tepper Sports & Entertainment)

“I see the business community in full swing, but tonight I am representing another community, a community of people who can’t be here, mothers who might be working 15-hour days and may want to have their voice heard about what’s happening in this city,” said Tiawana Brown. 

“A $1.8-billion [economic impact] sounds real good until we get Mr. Tepper angry again … and then he might throw something at city council,” added Brown.

Renee Johnson said the city manager and Tepper aren’t accountable to voters the way council members will be, so she would support the substitute motion to bring the contract back in front of council, stating that no entrepreneur would move forward with a contract they hadn’t seen, nor would a resident buy a home that way.

James ‘Smuggie’ Mitchell said he would support the plan due to the MWSBE Participation Plan, with a targeted participation goal of 27% (15% minority-owned businesses & 12% women-owned/small-business enterprises).

The MWSBE Participation Plan target mandates that Tepper Sports & Entertainment “use commercially reasonable efforts to utilize MWSBE firms for those portions of the project funded by StadCo and StadCo’s ongoing operating maintenance of/capital projects for stadium facilities.”

Marjorie Molina said she was originally closed off to even considering the stadium upgrades because she was still “salty” that David Tepper had pulled out of Eastland and wasn’t sure that he even cared about the community at all.

She said she listened to her constituents, including the many people on the east side who are “ecstatic” about the game of soccer and want to see more international games at the stadium, and her mind began to change about it.

Assistant city manager Tracy Dodson said council will have a second vote on the plan in the fall regardless of the substitute motion. Monday night was a vote on policy, the fall vote will be on financing, Dodson said. 

Tariq Bokhari said it was a tough decision for him to support the deal as someone who knows how rare it is for public funding to be worth it when investing in sports stadiums.

Bokhari said the economic impact report estimates $54.3 million in taxes will be generated annually, putting the payback period just over 11 years. “I believe we have made a forecast that can be trusted,” he added. 

He cited efforts to recruit the 2027 World Military Games to Charlotte. “That win would tee us up to win the 2031 Pan Am Games, which would then position us for the 2040 Olympics in Charlotte.”

“We have to be candid, there are some concerns about Mr. Tepper — about his wealth, the power that comes with his wealth, and the publicity from some of his actions,” said Ed Driggs. 

Driggs pointed to Tepper’s previous investments in Bank of America Stadium as he waits for the city to “back him up.” Driggs pointed to the 27% MWSBE goal, saying he’s never seen anything like that number, then pointed to many other employment opportunities for low-income people that will result from the plan.

“Tonight we’ve had some conversations around an individual, and this deal is not about an individual,” said Dante Anderson. “It is about the city of Charlotte and how she will grow and how we as stewards of her growth will make the best decisions possible to ensure that her residents, that the economy, that the environment will not only continue to grow and thrive but will continue to be a welcoming environment and will continue to be a place where people will want to come and visit us, want to take up Charlotte as a residence.”

The substitute motion to hold another vote in the future after the contract is negotiated but before it’s signed failed. Council then voted to authorize the city manager to execute the agreement with TSE in a 7-3 vote, with Dimple Ajmera, Tiawana Brown and Renee Johnson casting the only No votes.

Council will go on summer recess, meeting only once in July for a business meeting scheduled for July 22.

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