Tepper Sports pulls plug on Charlotte FC youth academy at Eastland site

CHARLOTTE — Tepper Sports and Entertainment will not be involved in a major redevelopment in east Charlotte, officials said.

It is pulling the plug on a Charlotte FC youth academy at the former Eastland Mall site, officials confirmed Wednesday.

That follows the announcement two years ago that the team’s headquarters won’t go to the east Charlotte site either.

The city owns the site and a new development will break ground Aug. 3.

Our partners at the Charlotte Business Journal reported that, the David Tepper-owned team no longer plans to put its youth academy on the city-owned Eastland property. Tepper Sports & Entertainment said, “There are no plans at this time (for Eastland projects), but we are always open to discussing opportunities to improve the greater Charlotte community.”

The MLS club is in its first season and has used various fields for practice sessions, including Bank of America Stadium. CBJ reported last month that Charlotte FC had reached an agreement to practice through 2023 on upgraded fields at McAlpines Center in east Charlotte.

Tepper Sports, which also owns the NFL Carolina Panthers and BofA Stadium, said the collapse of the Eastland training center will not affect separate, ongoing talks for an uptown entertainment district and possible renovations or a replacement of the 26-year-old stadium.

“After a great deal of consideration, the timeline for the Eastland project posed challenges that led us to research expedited alternatives,” Tepper Sports said in a statement provided this evening. “We continue to work towards a practice facility for Charlotte FC’s first team, the club’s academy and its MLS Next Pro team and will provide updates as our plans are finalized. We continue to have discussions with the city of Charlotte as we work towards driving economic engagement through sports and live entertainment.”

Tepper paid a record entry fee of $300 million in December 2019 for the expansion team that became Charlotte FC. The MLS team debuted in March before a league-record crowd of 74,479 fans.

Initial plans called for the city to provide $110 million to help Tepper Sports pay for related training needs and soccer-specific improvements at BofA Stadium. By mutual agreement, the city and Tepper later agreed to reduce that amount to $35 million: $25 million to pay half the cost of the stadium renovations and $10 million more for the portion of Eastland the team or its youth academy would have occupied.

To date, Tepper Sports has received no taxpayer funding as the Eastland negotiations have waxed and waned. Whether and how that $35 million is provided to Tepper Sports is undecided.

The city-owned Eastland site is being redeveloped by Crosland Southeast. Groundbreaking is expected later this summer.

The city bought the shuttered mall in 2012 and knocked it down the following year. City leaders have spent the past decade trying to spur new private investment on the site.