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CHARLOTTE-Year-long wrangling by city council members on the need for a new $220 million Uptown arena for the NBA Hornets is coming to a head. The legislature meets in January and the city needs an OK from the lawmakers before it can place the arena-funding issue before voters.

But that may be too long for co-owner Ray Wooldridge and his investment partners to wait. They may look elsewhere for an arena site. Wooldridge maintains the team is losing $12 million a year playing in the small Coliseum with limited corporate skyboxes and other expensive amenities to sell.

Some council members could care less. They argue the city’s priorities are too heavily weighted on sports rather than culture. Other council members are backing a proposal that would have the city construct the new arena and rent it to the Hornets under a 25-year lease. The estimated $220 million funding package would grow to $280 million if the city’s plans include a minor league stadium and relocating the Mint Museum.

The city would use hotel-motel tax revenue and possibly raise the car-rental tax to pay for the arena and other new projects. To start the development ball rolling, however, the city needs a green light from the state on the referendum, the rental-car tax increase and having taxes on player salaries go toward the new arena’s cost.

Wooldridge and the city are meeting in January to resolve unsettled questions on the new arena proposal.

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