Last week a majority on the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted to bring professional soccer to Charlotte. While this may come as a surprise to you- the unwashed masses- when you’re billionaires like us you don’t leave things to chance. After all, we built a ten digit net worth by selling tickets to people who want to watch cars make left turns for three hours.
The first thing we needed to do was educate the BOCC on what exactly is ‘soccer.’ It doesn’t help that the rest of the world refers to the sport as ‘football’ (or ‘futbol’), and we already have one of those teams. So to ensure the commissioners understood we gave them a demonstration using an overturned tambourine, a marble and a pair of different colored M&M’s. After demonstrating their mastery of the game by asking some probing questions (“Which one is Luke Kuechly?”) the commissioners wanted to know the financing details.
The deal basically works like this: MLS wants the team to spend $150 million to demolish the 17,000-seat Memorial Stadium and build a 20,000-seat stadium in its place. That works out to $50,000 per additional seat. In addition, MLS requires a $150 million cover charge for the privilege of playing 17 home games every year.
No billionaire is dumb enough to finance that, which is why we went to the government.
We’ve offered to split the cost of the stadium three ways between Yours Truly, the city and the county. For us billionaires $50 mil is beer money. The city of Charlotte plans to raise their share by increasing the hotel tax on all those fans who stay overnight for a 90-minute soccer match. The county, however, has no clue where they are going to get the money. But since money was no object, they also offered to repay us half the cover charge (another $75 million).
(There’s this niggling detail called the North Carolina Constitution which says any debt issued by a local government has to be approved by voters. The county manager explained that paying back a $75 million loan over 25 years isn’t debt if it comes from ticket sales. Glad we got that cleared up.)
Why would the county do such a thing? Maybe it’s because we paid a consultant to tell them it will get someone to actually ride the nearby streetcar; and spur hundreds of millions of dollars of development where there is no available land; and slow global warming; and raise SAT scores.
Oh, and the county will still own the stadium (but we get to do whatever we want). We know you Mecklenburgers are familiar with a private company taking over public land for decades in all but name only. We’re glad you’re so enlightened.
We’ll even let the county use our- oops, their– stadium twenty times a year for free. Of course, we didn’t specify when they can use their stadium. Instead it will be like a time share where we winter in Palm Springs while you’re there in July. Oh, and since it’s their stadium they’ll kick in a quarter mil every year for maintenance. (By the way, we keep all of the ticket, parking and concession revenues but you don’t need to know that.)
This deal wasn’t easy. Major League Soccer is big… and getting bigger every year. Attendance now rivals Ramsey Creek Beach on Memorial Day. MLS announced they are expanding, but competition is stiff. Charlotte would be competing against Detroit, Cincinnati and Sacramento. To sweeten the pot we’re envisioning a “sports complex,” a grand entertainment venue that includes dog racing and jai alai and maybe a pinball arcade.
We have a window of opportunity so luckily we got a majority of enlightened commissioners to agree with us.
For the record, commissioners opposing our cozy little deal were Cotham, James, Puckett and Ridenhour.
We think this public-private partnership stuff is pretty cool: we get the reward while the taxpayer takes the risk.
In fact, we’re so enamored with this little scheme we’re thinking of going into the toll lane business.