A major tennis tournament could be coming to Charlotte. That’s the hope of some city and county officials, anyway, after they reviewed plans yesterday to build a mega sports complex at the River District Development Project near the airport. For more, we go now to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.
Marshall Terry: Tony, what tennis tournament did they have in mind?
Tony Mecia: Marshall, they’re talking about a tennis tournament called the Western & Southern Open that is right now played outside Cincinnati, and it’s one of the biggest tennis tournaments there is. It draws international players, a whole lot of them, top-tier players with a lot of spectators. The organizers outlined a plan to city and county leaders yesterday in which they said they’d like to build this tennis complex in the River District. You might recall, Marshall, the River District is a 1,400-acre development just west of the airport in Mecklenburg County, along the river, as the name implies. And it’s just now getting off the ground. It’s going to be a mix of houses, office, retail, restaurants, with greenways and trails. And so they describe this tennis complex as a natural fit for that development. The complex, as envisioned, would have 40 courts on about 50 acres. It could draw other tournaments, it could have youth sports activities, it could have clinics. There’s an amphitheater in which they could have concerts. And, Marshall, they also said there could be pickleball and pickleball tournaments.
Terry: Well, so the big question is how much would this complex cost. and how much of that would be taxpayer money?
Mecia: Marshall, they said as envisioned it’s $400 million for the entire project, and they would like a third of that to come from government sources.
Terry: Well, what does this mean for the Eastland Mall site? The city is also considering a sports complex there with tennis, funded in part by taxpayers, right?
Mecia: Yeah, that’s really a curious part about this. I talked to some of the folks at Eastland yesterday and they were not happy about this. They feel as though the city has sort of strung that project along, delayed, delayed, delayed, and it still doesn’t have any resolution. And won’t for several more months at least. While, at the same time, the city has been working in a similar track to try to get this project done in the River District — that would be a tennis complex that would be more expensive than the Eastland tennis proposal and is moving quicker. They’re not really happy about that. It’s hard to imagine Charlotte being able to support both a tennis complex at the River District and one in Eastland. So we don’t really know what’s going to happen there, but there are some folks on the east side who are not really happy about the way the city has handled this.
Terry: So how likely is this sports complex that was announced this week to get approved? And what’s the timeline like for that?
Mecia: Well, you never really know. The devil’s kind of in the details. And the presentation was missing a lot of details. But it looks like from the reaction from city council members and county commissioners that they’re very enthusiastic about this project. They’d like to see it happen, if they can be assured that it’s actually a good deal for Charlotte — that the public money that they’re putting in would more than come back in the form of additional taxes and other benefits to the community. And the timeline is actually fairly quick, at least for government. They’d like a decision by the end of the summer, and maybe by the fall, because the organizers say they need to figure out what’s going on with the tournament, whether it needs to stay in Cincinnati or move it. So they’re moving awfully quickly to try to resolve it.
Terry: All right. Well, on now to a development project that has already been approved. You report it’s a controversial apartment expansion in Pineville and that the approval came with a condition. So what makes it controversial, and what’s this condition?
Mecia: Like in other places in the Charlotte area, you’re seeing a lot of concerns about development. This is a development in downtown Pineville, 237 apartments. And the concerns were about parking and traffic, and the number of parking spaces that would be required. Leaders in Pineville approved the project with more parking than was originally proposed, but less than some residents wanted. So just concerns in Pineville really like you’re seeing in other places in the Charlotte region, just about what’s going to be the effect on the quality of life from additional development.
Terry: All right. Well, staying in Pineville, a restaurant there is trying something new — using robots as waiters. How much do you tip a robot, Tony?
Mecia: Marshall, I don’t know the correct answer to that question. But I do know that a restaurant in Pineville called Yiding Hot Pot, an Asian restaurant, it has two robots — one named Wall-E and one named Eve. And according to The Charlotte Observer, those robots take the food from the kitchen, deliver it to the tables, and it helps the restaurant owner save in labor costs.
Terry: All right. Well, I wonder where robots are going to pop up next. Thanks, Tony.
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