by Michael Lowrey
“Soccer is big business, and the exposure of events like that and other matches that have been held like that in previous summers are helping to put Charlotte on the map,” [Bob Morgan, CEO of the Charlotte Chamber] said.
He also noted how Forbes recently ranked the Carolina Panthers the No. 40 most valuable sports franchise in the world. Bayern Munich, one of the other teams that played in Charlotte last weekend, on the other hand, ranked No. 12.
“We aspire to be home to an MLS franchise,” Morgan said. To do that, Morgan said, Charlotte has to work to build adequate facilities, adding that efforts like the $24.8 million renovation of Memorial Stadium are part of that. Charlotte’s currently home to the Charlotte Independence, which is part of the United Soccer League and affiliated with the MLS team the Colorado Rapids.
Ugh. I kind of hoped that the powers that be in Charlotte had outgrown their collective insecurity and need to constantly established exactly how “world class” Charlotte is. Apparently not.
That though isn’t the biggest issue here. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room that Morgan didn’t seem to notice: The MLS is talking with cities and potential team owners about adding teams right now, with the franchise fee being potentially $200 million and MLS stadiums running $150 million+ these days. So making vague statements about wanting soccer just isn’t enough. Building a nicer minor league soccer stadium doesn’t cut it either.
Hard to tell exactly what sort of game Morgan is playing here: Is he so completely out of touch with reality that he doesn’t grasp the MLS expansion timeline? Or does he grasp it and doesn’t care, instead trying to create buzz about a major-league soccer team to get public money for a minor-league team.
In any case, shame on the Charlotte Observer for not mentioning that the window for MLS expansion is now, not later.
Bonus thought: Speaking of Bayern Munich, its International Champions Cup match with Inter Milan over the weekend at Bank of America Stadium drew 50,177. That’s a health-sized crowd and the company that promotes the ICC has said that they’re quite pleased with Charlotte. The fact they don’t have to pay rent at the stadium may also have something to do with that. The city got free use of the stadium a couple of times a year as a quid pro quo for providing $75 million for improvements at the privately-owned facility.