I am a Charlotte native and I love this town. We have had many stadiums and arenas in our time and moving forward, I believe that we need to continue our recent trend of keeping our beloved teams Uptown or in the surrounding area.
Nothing against East Charlotte, the area is due for some good news and will be a great area as the Plaza Midwood growth and revitalization reaches it. I just look at the history of Charlotte sports venues and see a past that we shouldn’t repeat.
The Charlotte Hornets came to town in 1988 and subsequently built an arena on Tyvola Road in South West Charlotte. While the Tyvola Hive was an incredible venue for years, the Hornets now play uptown and it has created an amazing atmosphere with public transportation, bars, restaurants and live music venues.
The Charlotte Knights spent years playing AAA baseball in Fort Mill, SC, a trip from most of Charlotte. As the venue became older, people became less and less likely to make the trip. Attendance dwindled and the team made the right decision to move to Uptown Charlotte. Before the Knights built BB&T Ballpark, an empty lot stood there. It has now blossomed into apartments, restaurants, and beautiful Romare Bearden Park.
The Charlotte Checkers have remodeled Bojangles Coliseum, a short drive from Uptown and The Carolina Panthers have had great success playing in the center of it all. It has created a healthy center city where a Charlotte sports fan can see all major sports within a short distance.
Building an MLS Stadium in East Charlotte could do one of two things.
It could help East Charlotte and the space left over by since demolished Eastland Mall explode into a hotbed for soccer. It could capture the evolving population that lives there and lead to the building of public transportation, restaurants, new construction and create another great, diverse Charlotte neighborhood. I find this somewhat unlikely.
Or it could alienate the new kid in town, professional soccer, a sport that is still growing in popularity with most of Charlotte’s population. While new and shiny for awhile, it could suffer the same fate as the Knights did in Fort Mill, becoming a hassle to get to and in an area of Charlotte that wouldn’t initially offer much else to fans.
While a new MLS Stadium could be exciting, I would love to see an MLS team play Uptown.
Bank of America Stadium could be one ideal option. While there would probably be some hurdles to overcome, the venue has a history of success with major soccer events. The location would bring MLS to Uptown Charlotte and instantly a player among the major sports and entertainment options in the Queen City. The Seattle Sounders are a perfect example of an MLS team that plays in a preexisting stadium built for the NFL. The Sounders draw tens of thousands of fans for every home game.
Another option would be to team up with the Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse and rebuild Historic Memorial Stadium to fit the needs of an MLS Franchise. I think that a refurbished and expanded Memorial Stadium would create the views and atmosphere that could breed success for soccer in Charlotte.
My recommendation is to learn from the past, put an MLS team in the heart of the city. Don’t let soccer be left out, give it the location and excitement that it needs to succeed.