As of October 2012, Mecklenburg County is well on the way to a newly renovated American Legion Memorial Stadium. Thanks to Asset and Facility Management (AFM), what we all now call Charlotte Memorial Stadium will continue to serve the community for years to come.
The stadium has a rich history that goes back almost 80 years. Construction began in 1934 as a project of the Works Progress Administration and then sitting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the stadium in 1936. At that time, only the lower bowl existed. The north upper deck was constructed in the 1960s and the south upper deck was constructed in the 1970s.
Over those years, Charlotte Memorial Stadium has played host to many of Charlotte’s greatest moments in sports and entertainment. Fans witnessed legendary high school football games including the annual NC/SC Shrine Bowl, concerts from some of the biggest names in music, and even professional wrestling. And one of the most historic events involved a soccer ball. In 1981, Charlotte’s first professional sporting team, the Carolina Lightnin’, won the American Soccer League’s national championship, defeating the New York United 2-1.
The many years of crowds and cheers have taken a toll. Doug Buchanan, Project Manager, AFM described the situation.
“During an assessment of the stadium done in 2011, we discovered several defects that posed safety threats,” Buchanan said. “There were voids, areas where the soil had eroded away from under the concrete stands in the lower bowl. This had allowed the concrete stands to shift up and down in places, creating trip hazards. Most concerning was the north side upper deck, that ultimately had to be condemned by the inspector."
Those areas deemed unsafe were immediately roped off to protect the public. Subsequent to the assessment report, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners approved $3.8 million to make repairs and renovations to this landmark facility. A lead abatement project is completed and there are now no hazardous materials on the site. The demolition of all condemned sections is also completed. The contractor, who had scheduled two weeks for the job, only took two days to complete the demolition. The sections came down much easier than expected due to less stringent construction requirements when the structure was built. Some parts consisted of hollow block construction, with no reinforcement as is required today.The press box also had to be removed, because it sat atop the north side upper deck stands. AFM has now entered into the design and development stage for the stadium. Plans include a new press box, a concourse that will be rebuilt, and the stadium will be up-fitted to be fully accessible to anyone attending an event.challenged.
AFM is also working with Time Warner Cable to install fiber optic cabling into the stadium that will allow high speed Internet connection and the broadcasting of live events. The bidding documents will be ready to send out for bid Dec. 1, 2012 and the projected completion date is April 2013.
"Just taking down the north stands, opening it up, gives it a better - more wide open feeling,” Buchanan said. “The only negative was the loss of seats on the north side." Currently, the stadium serves as the home field for the Charlotte Hounds Lacrosse team, Johnson C. Smith University plays some of their home games in the stadium, and high school football games have become a routine every Friday night during football season. As of now, the current seating seems to be sufficient, but, as Buchanan noted, "That could change in the future."
The American Legion Memorial Stadium renovation project is a great example of how Mecklenburg County Government serves the community, assuring its safety, preserving its history, and contributing to its rich culture. Asset and Facility Management is part of Mecklenburg County’s Business Support Services Agency. For more information, and for consulting and contracting opportunities with Mecklenburg County, visit their website here.
Video Links: Memorial Stadium Anniversary
Memorial Stadium & Grady Cole Center
Carolina Lightin' Reunion