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Some Charlotte City Council members want more time for public comment before $650M stadium plan vote

The city of Charlotte is proposing to spend $650 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium.
Carolina Panthers
City of Charlotte
The city of Charlotte is proposing to spend $650 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium.

Several Charlotte City Council members on Monday said the city should hold a special public hearing at least one week before a June 24 vote to spend $650 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium.

But Mayor Vi Lyles and City Manager Marcus Jones did not agree to do that.

Last week, the city unveiled a plan to spend $650 million in tourism and prepared food and beverage taxes to renovate the nearly 30-year-old stadium. Tepper Sports and Entertainment would contribute $150 million to the project, as well as $400 million over the next 15 years.

Tepper Sports would agree not to move either the Carolina Panthers or Charlotte FC for at least 15 years. If they moved in the five years after that, the two teams would have to pay the city’s outstanding debt.

Jones, the city manager, wants council to vote on the deal June 24.

But several council members, like Dimple Ajmera, said that’s too soon.

“We are talking about $650 million,” Ajmera said. “I know you said you don't want us to feel rushed, but I feel like we are being rushed. So I just don’t understand the urgency of having to make a decision on June 24 and having a public hearing on the same day.”

Four other council members agreed: Renee Johnson, Victoria Watlington, Tiawana Brown and LaWana Mayfield.

City Council would need to hold a hearing on June 17 to fit it in a week prior to the planned vote. Mayfield said if council members don’t have at least a week to consider public comments, then they would open themselves up for criticism.

“And I think we put ourselves in a position where we will have a lot more scrutiny from the media that are here about transparency and accessibility,” she said.

But even though five council members want to give the public more time to weigh in, that’s one shy of the six votes needed for a council majority.

After the five council members spoke, Jones and the mayor did not address their concerns. As of now, there is no special public meeting planned for the public.

Potential bad PR

One potential problem with a June 17 public hearing: It could produce several days of negative headlines, if a majority of speakers questioned the deal.

The city has instead directed the public to submit comments about the stadium proposal through a special website.

Economic developer director Tracy Dodson told council members she would summarize the responses for them. Later in the meeting, she said she would give council members copies of all of the responses.

The city’s $650 million would come from tourism taxes on hotel rooms and restaurant and bar tabs. State law prohibits the city from using the money on other priorities, such as affordable housing or higher police salaries.

But some of the money could be used for other tourism projects, like a long-planned renovation of Discovery Place that’s been put on hold.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.