Redesigned Memorial Stadium will continue to celebrate military

Plus: American might redo main airport club; CMS legal theories take another hit; Krispy Kreme sets record in Concord

Good morning! Today is Monday, July 29, 2019.

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Memorial Stadium refurbishment to start next month

Work is expected to start next month on the $35M refresh of Memorial Stadium in Elizabeth, the county tells the Ledger.

Demolition should start in August, with construction expected to be complete by spring 2021.

According to a recent design update from architects Land Design, HOK and Jenkins-Peer, the changes will include:

  • Pushing back the interior stone walls to allow more field space. If you’ve ever watched a high-school football game there, the lack of space between the sideline and the corners of the end zone gets a little dicey.

  • Relocating the ticket buildings.

  • Better connections to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. Along the path, public art will showcase the history of the stadium.

  • Placing a memorial to Mecklenburg County World War I veterans between the two main entries. It can be easily seen from Charlottetowne Avenue and the stadium concourse. “Celebration of the military will continue to be an essential part,” according to county documents.

And there are some hot new renderings, too:

Once finished, the stadium would continue to be home to local sporting events, including high school football and other youth and perhaps college sports. The minor-league soccer team Charlotte Independence plans to use it as a home field, and the Charlotte Hounds pro lacrosse team could as well.

History: The stadium was built in 1936 using money from the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration. A speech by President Franklin Roosevelt was one of the venue’s first events. According to a stadium history on the website of the Charlotte Hounds, the site “has hosted July 4th concerts, professional wrestling matches and performances by entertainers such as Pearl Jam and Jimmy Buffett.”


Airport lounge intrigue at CLT

Airport clubs are beyond the reach of most travelers. But for the most frequent road warriors and for the airlines themselves, they’re important.

We wrote last week that some people have been complaining that Charlotte, the country’s 10th-largest airport, has fewer airport clubs than other major airports.

But is that about to change?

Last week, a member of the internet discussion group Urban Planet wrote that he had written to American’s senior vice president of marketing, loyalty and sales about the lack of airline clubs and that the executive, Kurt Stache, had replied that the airline is “looking at options for an additional smaller Admiral Club near our new gates. So far no available viable space has been identified.”

In addition, according to the post, Stache wrote:

Charlotte is critical to our network, and therefore so is offering the right customer proposition to our customers be they local or connecting.  Planning work with CLT airport is underway and our main lounge will get a full refresh as the airport authority comes through and refurbishes that concourse area.  Our future Admirals Club will include all the same amenities as those that have been introduced in our other new clubs in hubs, including showers. Timing on this is still pending negotiations with the airport authority.

Renovation, showers and new club? It would be news, if true, that American is planning to refurbish its huge Admirals Club lounge between concourses C and D and is scouting sites for a third club elsewhere in the airport.

‘Unable to confirm’: The Ledger asked an American spokeswoman on Tuesday if the letter Stache supposedly wrote that was posted on Urban Planet was authentic — which seems as though it should be easy enough to answer. By Friday, though, the spokeswoman said she was “unable to confirm the validity of Kurt’s email that’s circulating.” She said she’s not saying he didn’t write it, just that she didn’t know if he did. She added: “As we continue to grow in CLT, we recognize the need for additional capacity and improved amenities in our Admirals Clubs and are working toward making that happen in the future.” Take that as you will.

Delta: Another Urban Planet airport lounge rumor — that Delta is eyeing a “popup Sky Club” at Charlotte’s airport — was shot down by a Delta spokeswoman: “We don’t have pop up Clubs planned at this time in CLT.”


School board’s novel secrecy-law theory torpedoed again

You’ll recall a couple weeks back that the Ledger got all fired up when the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board apparently pushed out Superintendent Clayton Wilcox without offering an explanation. Their hands were tied by personnel laws, they claimed. They love the law so much that they’re going to follow it “even if it means bad PR for the nine of us,” board chairwoman Mary McCray puffed, in an attempt to spin secrecy as valor.

It was a bogus argument. Totally false.

We pointed out at the time that N.C. law explicitly says that school boards can disclose information in personnel files if they determine that doing so “is essential to maintaining the integrity of the board.” In other words, they are choosing not to release the information. Maybe they have legit reasons for doing so. But they’re not mandated to keep it secret, as they claimed.

Now, this interpretation is getting some cover from the Observer. The paper’s new education reporter, Annie Ma, had a thorough piece over the weekend that quoted a small army of lawyers opining that, why, yes, the board is free to disclose why it’s cutting Wilcox loose:

The law does not prevent the board from being the first to disclose information and there is no state Supreme Court case that sets a binding legal precedent, said Jonathan Vogel, an education lawyer who previously worked at the U.S. Department of Education. …

What meets the standard of maintaining the board’s integrity is for the board itself to decide, said Mike Tadych, whose work includes open records law and who serves as general counsel to the North Carolina Press Association. …

The board does not have to release everything, or any particular piece of information, he said, just what it determines is necessary to maintaining public trust. They could also decide there is no need to release anything.

“I would interpret the right to release as a qualified privilege from any sort of backlash as a result,” Tadych said. “It’s an acknowledgment (from the legislature) that we understand there are cases where this is justified.”

Boards usually work with their attorneys to determine when and what is appropriate to release, said Allison Schafer, general counsel to the North Carolina School Boards Association. …

Schafer said that in her experience, school boards have only used that exemption when incorrect information is spreading, usually by a former employee. While the law does not prevent boards from opting for disclosure, Schafer said releasing information can often open boards to legal liability.

“The board gets to decide when it’s necessary,” Schafer said.

So that’s three experts saying the board actually could opt to release more information, despite its protestations to the contrary.

The two obvious inferences from all this are a) the board is receiving poor legal advice or b) the board is receiving accurate legal advice but choosing to mislead about what the law says.

It’s tough to say which is less confidence-inspiring: How board members are handling Wilcox’s departure — or their hiring-and-firing record in the last few years.


In brief:

  • Buffett boosts BofA stake: Investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway added 54 million shares of BofA stock to its holdings in the second quarter, according to securities filings. That brings Berkshire’s total to 950 million shares, or 10% of the company, up from 9.4% as of March 31. It’s the bank’s largest shareholder. (MarketWatch)

  • Lyft attacks Charlotte ‘food deserts’: Lyft is expanding its grocery access program to Charlotte to help low-income families reach healthy food. “Local families can register to receive $2 flat-rate fares on eight Lyft rides per month to and from designated grocery stores and food pantries in the 28208 and 28216 zip codes, areas categorized as food deserts,” QCityMetro reports.

  • Bank of America Plaza exit: BofA employees will soon be exiting Charlotte’s Bank of America Plaza building, according to the Biz Journal (paywall). BofA “is the major tenant at Bank of America Plaza today but will soon exit that 40-story tower, with the bank consolidating employees who work in that building and Hearst Tower into other properties in the CBD, including Bank of America Tower at Legacy Union.” The departure, expected by the end of 2020, opens up 16 floors of the building, or 295,000 s.f. New building owner Cousins Properties said it’s optimistic about finding new tenants in the hot uptown market, the publication said.

  • Krispy Kreme record: Krispy Kreme’s new store across from Concord Mills, which sells customizable doughnuts and doughnut ice cream sandwiches, set a company sales record in its first 24 hours, Charlotte Agenda reports. The Ledger was in the area Saturday afternoon, and the line was out the door.

  • Money from flying: Here’s a novel interpretation of American Airlines earnings, which were released last week: “The last several quarters American has reported that their costs were greater than passenger revenue + cargo revenue. Their entire profit was accounted for by selling frequent flyer miles to banks. However in the second quarter American made money flying.” Airlines sell miles to banks, which offer them as credit card rewards. (View from the Wing)

  • Peak meteor shower: A rare double meteor shower will peak tonight under what are predicted to be clear Charlotte skies, WCNC reported. There should be about 20-25 meteors per hour.

  • Hot credit card: The new Apple credit card, producing in partnership with Goldman Sachs, is expected out in the first half of August, Bloomberg reports.

  • Flight changes: JetBlue is cutting flights between Charlotte and New York’s JFK International but adding flights between Charlotte and Boston, the Observer reported. Changes start in the fall.

  • Worthy read: Charlotte magazine has a nice piece that goes inside the transformation of SouthPark’s “ski-slope church.” Sharon United Methodist “changed its name, sold its land, and tore down its iconic steeple. The audacious plan divided families and drove away a fourth of the congregation. But could it become a model for the modern church?”


Taking stock

Unless you are a day trader, checking your stocks daily is unhealthy. So how about weekly? How local stocks of note fared last week (through Friday’s close), and year to date:


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

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The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.