MATTHEWS – Officials in Matthews will sit down with leaders in Mecklenburg County next week to discuss the next phase of the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex and how big the planned tournament-sized sports stadium could be.
The Sportsplex is currently open in Matthews, at 1505 Tank Town Road, with five multi-use fields for sports such as football, lacrosse and soccer in addition to a playground. The next phase of the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation project will include the stadium, which will be big enough to host tournament games and possibly even a tenant such as the Charlotte Eagles soccer team, in addition to walking trails and another playground.
But the stadium is the biggest piece of the puzzle moving forward, and Matthews officials are interested in having more conversations about it in terms of how many seats the venue will hold. The town and Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority took part in a study that identified what the stadium could be used for – and how much the project would cost – if it was built at 4,000 seats, 6,500 seats or 10,000 seats. It is currently planned for 2,700 seats at a cost of $10.6 million.
While it’s a Mecklenburg County project, and the county is funding $30 million of the $32 million price tag, the facility is in Matthews and the town has been asked for input by parks and recreation officials as the project moves along.
“We have not had a chance to sit down with the county and talk about the report,” Matthews Town
Manager Hazen Blodgett said, adding the two groups plan to meet next week. While the report shows building the stadium at 10,000 seats could make it big enough to host the Charlotte Eagles, Charlotte Hounds lacrosse team and NCAA soccer games, Matthews just doesn’t have the cash on hand to help the county build what would be a $35.9 million project. The smallest of the three scenarios – at 4,000 seats – would cost $20.4 million according to estimates, while hosting 55 events a year and creating a reoccurring economic impact of $2 million.
So, while a 10,000-seat stadium with that kind of draw would be great for Matthews businesses, Blodgett said a stadium with up to 4,000 seats is “more realistic” to start the conversation.
“Somebody would have to come up with an extra $10 million,” Blodgett said of cost differences between the current planned project and the 4,000-seat option. “We don’t have the funds in our tourism funds to do that, (while) the county has said in the past they have a set budget (and) they have other projects they want to do.”
The stadium also could be built with fewer seats but with a nearby berm fans could lay a blanket out on and relax while watching a game, Blodgett said, with the berm as an optional space for future stadium seats if needed.
Matthews officials also are interested in seeing if there is an affordable way to make seating in the stadium more like the folding seats at a professional sports venue instead of bleachers. One way to bring in extra cash to afford better, or more, seats is to explore naming rights for the stadium, Blodgett said, which could be something the county does as the stadium progresses.
Regardless, town officials know the success of the project can only help the success of Matthews.
“One of our mantras is that the facility is going to be owned, operated and maintained by the county. But being in town limits … people will be staying in hotels in town or close to town, eating at restaurants in town or close to town,” Blodgett said. “We want to be respectful to the county, and we’re very appreciative of the amount of money allocated for the proposal. We want to keep that dialogue and work together for the betterment of the (project).”