Who: Johnny Wakefield is the founder and editor of Soccer ‘n’ Sweet Tea, a website devoted to everything soccer in the Carolinas, and host of the Soccer ‘n’ Sweet Tea Weekly podcast (which I’ve been a guest on). He’s also a K880 Emerging City Champions grant winner, so he’s spent a lot of time thinking about how to make Charlotte a better city. And, in a column this week, he argued that bringing a Major League Soccer team to Charlotte would be good for the city, county and everyone.
He joined this week’s CharlotteFive Podcast to talk about soccer in Charlotte and the MLS bid.
What: Earlier this year Marcus Smith of Speedway Motorsports submitted a bid for an MLS expansion team that would play at a renovated Memorial Stadium in Elizabeth. In the bid, the city and county would each pay part of the stadium cost (about $40 million each) and the Smiths would repay a loan to the county to the tune of $4.25 million for 25 years in addition to chipping in $12.5 million initially.
The county approved its part of the funding earlier this year, but the city decided not to consider it at the time, but are expected to discuss its share of the funding at the end of the month.
It’s a lot of public money, and Charlotte has a lot of other needs to address, but Wakefield argues that sports teams are civic assets worth supporting.
Twelve cities (including Raleigh) submitted bids for the two expansion teams that will be announced by the end of the year. MLS officials are scheduled to visit Charlotte next week.
– Wakefield also talked about the history of soccer in Charlotte, and whether the city has shown it can support an MLS team. (The photo at the top of this post is from a Carolina Lightnin’ — yes, Lightnin’ — match in 1981.)
– We also had him predict whether Charlotte, Raleigh or neither will actually land an MLS team in this round of expansion.
– Sallie and I talked about the many benefits of the “brunch bill” that passed the N.C. legislature.
– And Sallie gave us the inside info on two new restaurants opening up this week.
The CharlotteFive Podcast — presented by The Charlotte Observer and powered by OrthoCarolina — is a weekly podcast that aims to get you Charlotte Smart, Fast with fun, interesting and useful news about the city. It’s hosted by Corey Inscoe and Sallie Funderburk, and produced by Richard Brooke and 2Waves Media.
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Photo: Observer file photo