County rejects funding MLS stadium, gifts Memorial Stadium to city

Contentious commissioners vote against funding for MLS stadium

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — During a contentious, spirited and messy Mecklenburg County commissioners meeting Wednesday night, leaders voted 5-3 to gift Memorial Stadium to the city of Charlotte and not fund a new Major League Soccer stadium in Elizabeth.

Going into the meeting, three commissioners told Eyewitness News reporter Joe Bruno that chair Ella Scarborough was on board with blocking county funding for MLS.

But things got confusing when Scarborough delivered a long speech in favor of the sport in the Queen City.

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"Doggone it, if you're going to be a major city, let's be a doggone major city," she said. "Major cities have major things. Soccer is going to be a major thing that happens in this county."

About nine minutes after that speech, she voted to gift Memorial Stadium to the city and not to contribute any property tax dollars toward a new MLS facility.

The vote:

  • County deeds Memorial Stadium to city of Charlotte
  • County will not fund MLS
  • 2008 bond projects funded

The motion that was approved by the county's Republicans and commissioner Pat Cotham also fully funds the stalled park and greenway projects from the 2008 bond.

More than half a dozen people spoke in favor of the park projects before the vote, and the conversation, at times, was uncomfortable when county leaders started yelling at each other and hurling insults.

"Here we are in 2017 begging for our 2008 bond projects to be fully completed," Elaine Powell said.

13 park and greenway projects now fully funded from 2008 bond:

  1. Druid Hills Neighborhood Park
  2. Ezell Farms Community Park
  3. Mallard Creek Greenway (Mallard Creek Drive to David Taylor Drive)
  4. Briar/Little Hope Creek Greenway (Keystone Court to Manning Drive)
  5. McIntyre Creek Greenway (Beatties Ford Road to Clarencefield Drive)
  6. Irwin Creek Greenway (Old Statesville Road to Allen Hills Park)
  7. Eastfield Regional Park
  8. Briar Creek Greenway (Central Avenue to Commonwealth to Monroe Road)
  9. Sugar Creek Greenway (Billy Graham Parkway to McDowell Farms Drive)
  10. Naomi Drenan Recreation Center
  11. Colonal Francis Beatty Regional Park
  12. Mallard Creek Recreation Center
  13. Park Road Park Shelter

Scarborough's vote sparked arguments, fighting and a lot of head scratching in the chamber. Some leaders weren't sure which way she was leaning.

At first, they thought she was on board with killing funding for MLS, but then she gave a speech supporting it.

Minutes later, she voted against the funding, which triggered some harsh back and forth arguments.

Tempers flared and commissioner Matthew Ridenhour called it embarrassing.

"You are going to try to berate our chair over her vote, you are trying to confuse her over what her vote means and I am appalled by how this is how we are conducting ourselves," he said.

It's now up to the city to decide whether to accept Memorial Stadium.

Scarborough said the city and county have already talked about it.

City Council plans to talk about it on Aug. 17.

The county's decision is a reversal from their stance at the beginning of the year. In January, they appeared to be on board to help pay. In June, they backed off a bit and said they would only help if the city does.

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