I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but Charlotte, but there’s no denying that what Charlotte lacks relative to more established cities is a unique identity forged in history and tradition.
While a city’s identity is something that grows organically over the years, developed slowly by the citizens and their common interests, I do think there’s opportunity to “prime the pump” and borrow some ideas from other great US cities.
To that end, I’ve come up with four half-baked ideas to turbo-charge the development of Charlotte’s unique identity. To be fully baked, they’ll need some serious resources behind them, but for now they’re just concepts. On to the baking:
(1) Declare “MecDec Day” a City of Charlotte civic holiday, like Patriot’s Day in Boston
Every year in Boston, Patriot’s Day or “Marathon Day” occurs on the third Monday in April.
It’s a civic holiday which means all government offices are closed and the city essentially shuts down, meaning the citizens cut loose and have a grand old time (this is code for drinking). The Red Sox always play a home game that starts before noon and of course there’s the Boston Marathon.
I think Charlotte should declare MecDec Day a civic holiday and have events and celebrations focused on our civic pride. In case you aren’t aware, MecDec day in Charlotte commemorates the fact that Mecklenburg was the first government body in America to declare independence from England, on May 20, 1775. This makes May 20th the perfect day for Charlotte to declare their civic holiday, for the following reasons:
- The 3rd week in May is a virtual stone cold lock for great weather
- Knights season would be underway and they could play a day game in Uptown
- The Speed Street celebration and the Coca Cola 600 the following weekend, which would essentially lead to a whole week of celebrating what makes Charlotte great
(2) All Charlotte Pro sports teams sport the same purple & teal color scheme
I’m pretty satisfied with the color schemes of Charlotte’s pro sports teams. However, this town is in love with the Hornets, and across the country (dare we say the World?!), the colors most identifiable with Charlotte are the sweet, sweet teal and purple.
I always thought it was pretty cool that the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates all sported the same black and yellow scheme to represent Pittsburgh’s pro sports teams. Why not the same for Charlotte?
I love the fact that the Checkers had a Hornets Night this past November, and Cam Newton already did his part back in October, wearing Hornets cleats in pregame warm-ups. You can’t tell me adding purple to the Panthers color scheme wouldn’t be the freshest look in the NFL. And the Knights sporting home whites with purple pinstripes would be quite the crowd-pleaser.
Another shot of Cam Newton’s Charlotte Hornets cleats. pic.twitter.com/0DBMJ7eC7S
— Eric Kay (@ekaycbs) October 30, 2014
(3) Make “the Square” around Trade & Tryon a pedestrian walking mall.
Uptown Charlotte has come a long way in a very short time, thanks to the Lynx Blue Line, Romare Bearden Park, BB&T Ballpark, and some pretty smart development decisions. But to take Uptown to the next level, we’re going to need to increase the walkability of Uptown.
You can accomplish this in the long term by adding mixed-use infill projects throughout the Uptown landscape, which is the current path the city is taking, but if you want to force foot traffic overnight, I say shut down Trade St from the College St to Church St and Tryon St from West 3rd St. to West 6th St and make that a designated pedestrian walking area.
Then, hand out permits to set up shop to farmer’s markets, food trucks, street performers, and pop-up shops and watch what happens.
It’s kind of like Speed Street or one of the other Uptown festivals, but permanent, and with slightly fewer funnel cakes and mullets. “But where the heck would everyone park?” you say. Well my friend, that’s why these are not called “fully baked” ideas.
(4) Play more UNC Charlotte and Davidson sports in Uptown arenas and stadiums.
All great cities have relationships with area colleges that become part of the fabric of the city.
A strong relationship between school and city has a ton of benefits, including jobs and an influx of young and motivated talent, but it’s also a great source of civic pride when the athletics at those schools perform well on a national stage.
Charlotte citizens have such diverse collegiate rooting interests that there’s no real connection with the schools whose campuses are reasonably close to Uptown. I thought it was great a few weeks ago when the Knights had an impromptu exhibition game with Davidson’s baseball team a few days after UNC Charlotte had an official scrimmage.
There should be more of that.
So I propose that to foster civic connection with area schools, UNC Charlotte and Davidson play a few games of each major sports season in Uptown stadiums and arenas. Basketball games at Time Warner Cable Arena, soccer and lacrosse at Memorial Stadium, and of course baseball at BB&T Park.
Taking this idea a step further, it would be great if UNC Charlotte and Davidson could develop a more deliberate friendly competition over Uptown Braggin’ Rights.
In Philadelphia, the “Big Five” rivalry basketball games between area schools is something the whole city looks forward to each year (it’s been around since 1955).
Add this to the CIAA Tournament and hosting the ACC Tournament every few years, and Charlotte can further cement its identity as a basketball-crazy hotbed.
These ideas definitely carry a sports theme, but that’s because sporting events are scheduled every year and easy to manipulate, and there’s a built-in critical mass of people that would participate.
But to throw the non-sports crowd a bone, here are three even less-baked ideas for Charlotte:
- Put a public pool in the South End.
- Outdoor Music Festival at BB&T Ballpark and Romare Bearden Park (like Music Midtown in Atlanta).
- Some sort of tall monument. Like the Space Needle or Empire State Building. There’s no public place to get a great view of Charlotte from really high up.
So there you have it. A bunch of crazy ideas that will never happen, but would definitely make Charlotte a more interesting place to live, and give you something else to recommend to out of town guests other than going to the Whitewater Center.