City council discusses Eastland’s future again

CHARLOTTE — A fourth proposal is on the table for Eastland Yards, the site of the former Eastland Mall in Charlotte. Hundreds of housing units, a park and some retail space are already under construction on most of the Eastland site.

The city continues to chase ideas about what to do with the rest of the site.

“Here we are, kicking the can again and east Charlotte is left losing,” said resident Jordan Lopez.

QC East is one of the ideas. Three Charlotte companies, including Southern Entertainment, Charlotte Soccer Academy, and Carolina Esports Hub are teaming up on the $83 million project. The private sector is providing $53 million for the project. $20 million has already been committed. The public contribution would be $30 million. Charlotte Ledger reported the proposal’s emergence Wednesday.

QC East is a proposed sports and entertainment facility for the remaining 22 acres of Eastland Yards. The project calls for six multi-sport artificial turf fields to host youth and adult sporting events on a year-round basis. The turf fields would be able to be transformed into festival grounds for music festivals and cultural events. The plans also call for “The Hub.” The Hub is a public event and technology space focusing on esports and STEM education. The Hub will have a capacity of 2,500 for esports events and concerts.

QC East is one of four projects on the table for Eastland Yards. Charlotte City Council discussed the proposals on Monday.

“I know what Eastland Mall was and I know what you want to be in the future,” said Councilman Malcolm Graham, D-District 2. “I would rather get it right and get something you support than be back here four years from now and try to figure out what to do today.”

The city and east Charlotte’s vision for the remaining 29 acres is an economic driver with an amateur sports component. Developers are pitching a racquet sports complex, swimming complex, and Target for the site. The racquet sports and swimming proposals drew scrutiny by Charlotte City Council for a lack of readily available private funding. The Target proposal lacks a youth sports component.

According to QC East, the state-of-the-art multi-sports complex would open first in 2025. The fields will stretch across eight acres. In the fall of 2026, QC East expects the indoor and outdoor entertainment venue to open for concerts and festivals. The estimated capacity for the indoor space is 2,500 and 5,000 for the outdoor space. According to QC East, 2027 is the projected opening for The Hub. The Hub is the technology, digital entertainment, and STEM education center.

City councilmembers say QC East and the racquet sports proposals have pros and cons.

A Racquet Sports Entertainment District has also been proposed. The tennis-heavy proposal calls for more than 60 tennis, pickleball and paddle courts.

Both pitches have pros and cons.

“I don’t feel comfortable with any of the proposals currently on the table,” said Councilwoman Marjorie Molina, D-District 5.

City leaders say more time is needed, leaving east Charlotte residents in limbo, once again.

“We want something sooner than later instead of another year of missed opportunity at the Eastland site,” Lopez said.

Charlotte City Council eliminated the proposals for a Target and an Aquatics Center. City councilmembers said the Target proposal did not meet the city’s vision for east Charlotte. City leaders said there are too many uncertainties with the Aquatics Center pitch.

In addition to QC East and the Racquet Sports Entertainment District, Charlotte City Council is considering building its own amateur sports complex at the site.

Charlotte City Council will discuss the Eastland proposals in another 90 days.

QC East Proposal:

Charlotte Soccer Academy:

Charlotte Soccer Academy is the lead athletic partner for QC East. The CSA is one of the largest competitive soccer organizations in the country and helps organize events for hundreds of teams and thousands of players each year. In addition to 70 x 120 turf fields, an 80 x 130 “Champions Field” is proposed with FIFA-grade turf. In addition to soccer, QC East says the fields will be used for Charles Johnson 7x7 New Age Flag Football and boys and girls lacrosse.

Southern Entertainment Group:

Southern Entertainment Group is the Charlotte-based, national entertainment company overseeing the entertainment portions of QC East. The company is behind several well-known Charlotte events including Alive After 5, Grave Diggers Ball, and the Moo & Brew Festival. The company also provided entertainment programming and concert production for the Belk Bowl. SE provided hospitality for MSNBC and CNN during the Democratic National Convention. Southern Entertainment Group produces the Carolina Country Music Festival, Greenville Country Music Fest, and Barefoot Country Music Fest. All three events draw tens of thousands of people over multiple days.

Southern Entertainment is pitching two major annual music festivals at QC East in addition to food and cultural festivals, touring concerts, and art installations.

Carolina Esports Hub:

Carolina Esports Hub provides gaming space and STEM education to more than 12,000 students. CEH currently produces events at an 11,000-square-foot space near South End. CEH will lead the technology portion of QC East with workforce development programs focused on AI, cybersecurity, drone piloting, and coding. The Hub will host professional, collegiate, and amateur esports tournaments.

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