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Arena Foes Laying Low

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This week, the Charlotte City Council semi-officially kicked off the newest round of scrambling for a new arena. At an economic development meeting, committee chairwoman Lynn Wheeler laid out a process for once again pursuing an arena.

But not a peep was to be heard out of the vocal opposition group Citizens Opposed to Sports Taxes (CO$T), whose campaign helped defeat the arena referendum last June. So CL called them to find out what they were up to. As it turns out, the answer is absolutely nothing.

"I don't know what to organize against or for right now," said former City Council member and arena opponent Don Reid. "If this council is going to adopt a plan that requires more than hotel money or uses property tax money, CO$T or someone will get out there and try to defeat some of these folks when they run for office. I don't think the people can do anything about it except vote them out."

Reid says that's because, unlike last spring when there was an arena referendum to organize against, he sees no real target right now.

"Until there's a deal, there is nothing to be for or against," says vocal arena opponent Alan Wells. "It is basically the financial model more than the arena that we opposed. I think the people of Charlotte will rise up in arms if they try to ram through a new arena without a major tenant."

But would CO$T lead a new anti-arena effort? No one will commit to that right now, perhaps because some of the more vocal opponents of an arena think a new deal to house a franchise expansion team is a long shot because they don't believe the NBA is serious about granting Charlotte one, or about expanding the league.

"This is all speculation," said one person close to the situation who asked not to be identified. "Are they going to expand the league? I don't think they are. When you expand the league, you dilute the profits of the others, which are already down. Someone is going to have to buy a team and someone is going to have to lose one. That's a lot cheaper than trying to start from scratch."

Charles Held, a former leader of CO$T, says it would be difficult to lead another campaign without an obvious target.

"There won't be another referendum, so the question is what do we do?" said Held. Held says that for now, he plans to sign up to speak to Council on his own, but that no formal organizing effort has started. "This time we would have to decide how to approach this and how to influence it." *

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