Council QuickiesNews & Opinion

Council Quickies: Stadium Upgrades and a Budget Vote

June 10, 2024

Charlotte City Council met for an action review and a business meeting on Monday night, with the big business item on the agenda being the vote to approve the Fiscal Year 2025 budget.

On the Agenda:

  • Stadium Upgrades & Youth Violence Updates
  • Budget Vote

Action Review: Stadium Upgrades & Youth Violence Updates

In his presentation to council about the stadium upgrades, David Abrams with Inner Circle Sports showed how other cities have handled the split between private and public funding in constructing or renovating stadiums over the past 16 years.

Dimple Ajmera said many residents have asked her why the government doesn’t receive any equity in this deal so as to share in the profits. She asked if that’s common. Abrams said that leagues don’t like the government to have stakes in teams, but it is common for them to have equity in facilities, as the city does with Spectrum Center. 

“Government doesn’t want to be involved with revenue sharing because it’s hard for you to audit what that revenue is,” said Abrams. Some funds from ticket sales go to the team, others to stakeholders within the facility, and teams don’t like to audit or publicize how much money is coming in, making any such partnership difficult.

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 after upgrades. (Courtesy of Tepper Sports & Entertainment)

Ajmera brought up what she called the “elephant in the room,” referring to dealing with a partner in David Tepper who is known for backing out of deals with local governments (Eastland in Charlotte, practice facility in Rock Hill). Abrams ensured her that the city will have protections built into any contract that is signed.

Tracy Dodson led a presentation on feedback from the website the city launched last week.

Staff received 455 comments from the site, recognizing a few major themes that could categorize many of them: suggestions to spend the money on other more important things, asking for assurance that the city is creating opportunities for locals through this project, raising concerns about Tepper’s tendency to back out of such projects, and critiquing the design of the stadium renovations, namely the lack of a dome or retractable roof. 

Ajmera requested that council hold a public forum to allow residents to address council directly about their concerns rather than only on the website. She said it should be held before the June 24 meeting, when council is expected to vote on this deal.

Dodson estimated that, if the vote isn’t held on June 24, due to council’s summer recess, it will be delayed by at least 10 weeks. Renee Johnson, LaWana Mayfield and Tiawana Brown all supported Ajmera’s request to see a public hearing held on a separate night from the vote.

Mayfield pointed out that council members only saw a vague summary of themes from comments left on the website but did not see the actual comments and other feedback that could help inform their vote. Dodson said staff would send council members all comments in full on Tuesday. 

Shawn Heath next led a presentation about the proposed Katie Blessing Center, a project that would be led by the Katie Blessing Foundation. The center would be the state’s largest pediatric behavioral health care facility — a 70,000-square foot facility with 72 inpatient beds located across Central Avenue from the former Eastland site. 

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 upgrades to Bank of America Stadium. (Courtesy of Tepper Sports & Entertainment)

In a presentation about the proposed Katie Blessing Center in east Charlotte, Shawn Heath presented arrest statistics showing that, of 7,214 juvenile arrests made from 2021-23, just over 3,000 of those arrests involved the same 385 juveniles. The Katie Blessing Center is seen as a deterrent to criminal behavior among young people. 

The city is considering allocating $2.5 million, which would add to $20 million from Katie Blessing Foundation, $17 million from the state, $2 million from Mecklenburg County, and $2 million from Alliance Health, all of which is fully committed save for the city’s piece. Council is expected to vote on whether to put money toward the center in September. 

Budget Vote

Beginning the budget discussion, James ‘Smuggie’ Mitchell made a motion to restore $65 million in bond funding that was cut during last week’s straw vote discussion. The property tax hike would stay at 1.36 cents, with the money taken from street resurfacing projects instead.

Mitchell’s motion would bring spending in Strategic Investment Areas back from $30 million to $55 million, Corridors of Opportunity funding from $20 million to $25 million, and restore $5 million in Center City transportation improvements.

Malcolm Graham said it was public outcry that helped rescind cuts to Capital Improvement Plan funding for sidewalks, infrastructure, Corridors of Opportunity, Strategic Investment Areas. “Thank you for all those emails and phone calls encouraging council to do the right thing.”

Dante Anderson emphasized that investing in the arts is an economic driver. “Just as we are investing in other economic development areas, we need to be investing in arts infrastructure, and I’m glad we have $11 million in this budget that will do exactly that.”

Renee Johnson said she didn’t see the proposed changes until they were presented and didn’t feel the process was transparent. She had asked staff to look into whether some arts funding could be pulled from the hospitality fund but didn’t believe any effort was made to make that a reality. 

Victoria Watlington said staff will still be looking into the possibility of hospitality funds going to arts spending on the other side of summer recess, but that work hasn’t started at the committee level yet.

Ed Driggs told Johnson that money spent by from the hospitality funds must go through a process in which stakeholders in the hospitality industry support how they’re spent rather than trying to find language in the way the rules are written that would allow council to act without that industry’s support. 

Tariq Bokhari said he wouldn’t vote for the budget, but expressed that he sees many of his colleagues in a different light now for the hard work they’ve put into this process.

Bokhari expressed remorse that he couldn’t get funding for external carrier vests for CMPD in the budget, mostly due to opposition to the idea from Chief Johnny Jennings. Bokhari will launch his Shield the Blue campaign as a private citizen on Tuesday in hopes of raising $500,000 to purchase vests.

The budget was approved in an 8-3 vote, with Bokhari, Ed Driggs and Renee Johnson casting the No votes. You can view the full budget here. ​

Council will meet again for a zoning meeting on Monday, June 17.

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