Monday, February 2

The Mayor Talks and We Listen

Today, I had the pleasure of sitting down to discuss with Charlotte's mayor, Pat McCrory, some various issues about Charlotte and sports. Mayor McCrory has been instrumental in bringing the NBA back to the city, getting Charlotte selected as the home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and the development of the light rail that was widely criticized during planning and has been a tremendous success since it's completion. Copious amounts of appreciation to Pam in the mayor's office for helping to facilitate the interview. Read after the break, for more about 'leaving it up,' baseball in Charlotte, and why Mayor McCrory thinks Andrew Bynum should have been suspended.

ASD: First, some great news for Charlotte sports fans, Jerry Richardson had a successful heart transplant last night. Have you spoken to anyone with the Panthers about how he's doing?

Mayor McCrory: No, I haven't, just what I read in the Observer. Jerry's got a heart of gold with or without the new heart and it's great news for the city.

ASD: The Bobcats have been playing for five years, why do you think they've continued to struggle to attract fans?

Mayor McCrory: Part of it is the economy, but the other part is they haven't had a good team. Any sports team needs to give fans that sense of hope of winning. Even the Panthers, when they weren't doing well, you couldn't give a ticket away. College or professional, fans need that.

ASD: As a former basketball referree, we need an official statement, should Andrew Bynum have been suspended for his hit on Gerald Wallace?

Mayor McCrory: Yes. He should be suspended for such poor defense. A pro should never be caught that flat footed. (laughing)

ASD: Several months ago, (Hornets owner) George Shinn, came out in the Observer and said he wished things had worked out differently in Charlotte, have you spoken to him since the tem left?

Mayor McCrory: No.

ASD: Attempting to exclude the tenuous end with the Hornets, how has your relationship with the Bobcats been different from your relationship with the Hornets?

Mayor McCrory: The Bobcats have never given me false information, good or bad. The Hornets, specifically one of the other owners, would tell me they weren't looking to move, but mayors from other cities would call me and tell me they'd already met with them.

ASD: The city has hosted both a Final Four and a NBA All-Star Game, are there any plans to try to bring other special sporting events to Charlotte?

Mayor McCrory: Not in the short time. Our primary focus has been to become the permanent home of the ACC football championship, and that's something we're working very hard at doing.

ASD: As a former basketball ref and as a sports fan, you must be familiar with the phrase, 'leaving it up,' like Michael Jordan. With as criticized as you were during the development and as successful as it's been, have you ever been tempted to 'leave it up' when talking about the light rail in Charlotte?

Mayor McCrory: No, we can't rest on our success. One of the lessons I learned coming from this was never to quit communicating. During the development we stopped, and all the public was hearing was the bad things. There was a repeal vote, which fortunately failed, but I learned that you can't ever quit communicating through a process like that. With some of the criticism I faced, it did feel at times like a contact sport, but no I never considered leaving it up.

ASD: In the last twelve years, or even longer, Charlotte's been repeatedly mentioned as a potential destination for major league baseball, how close were we to getting a team?

Mayor McCrory: With the economic downturn, our major goal should be to hold onto what we have and grow it. With the Wachovia Championship and NASCAR we have four major sports in the market, and maintaining those is our priority.

ASD: There's been some talk of an uptown ball park for the Knights or for major league baseball, do you see that as a possibility or should we focus on growing the events that we have?

Mayor McCrory: Not growing, maintaining. With this economic reality we need to focused on keeping what we have and making it stronger instead of trying to expand.

ASD: Looking ahead, what does the new mayor need to do to continue to grow sports in Charlotte the way you have, at all levels?

Mayor McCrory: I've been in activist for sports in the city, as a way to brand Charlotte to outside businesses and industries. I love sports, but it was to brand the city and to foster economic development, not just for the sake of sports. Sports brings in revenue and travel and tourism dollars, but sports is a way to make the city attractive to outside industries and businesses and that's why it's important.

Thanks again to the both the Mayor as well as his staff for their time and effort to make this happen. It should be noted that my digital recorder decided to take a personal day (typically reserved for exam reviews), so the answers were all handwritten. Any errors in grammar should be attributed to my hand's inability to write clearly and not the Mayor.

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