If Raleigh is to be chosen as a Major League Soccer expansion city, the ball needs to be rolling on securing its stadium location—and it needs to be rolling now.
In December, the MLS announced that Nashville will be home to the 24th team in the nation’s highest professional soccer league. The next expansion city is expected to be announced soon, with the final two to be revealed by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Raleigh-based professional men’s soccer team North Carolina FC is getting its ducks in a row to win an expansion slot.
So who’s making that happen, and how?
North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik is leading the effort. He said back in November that plans to bring a $150 million soccer stadium to 13 acres of state-owned land at the north end of downtown Raleigh would have to be finalized by the end of the first quarter of 2018.
It’s up to Malik and his project partner, developer John Kane, to negotiate an agreement with the state to use what now houses North Carolina’s state government complex to build a sports arena and associated amenities. That would involve tearing down buildings and constructing 750,000 square feet of condos and hotel rooms, office and retail space, and adding parking and public transport infrastructure.
Negotiations between the club and the state go through the N.C. Department of Administration, which manages the state’s real estate portfolio. The Council of State, a nine-member body of popularly elected officials, will then hear a presentation around the proposal and vote on whether to approve it.
If the Council of State approves the project, the city and county will potentially come onboard to help with funding transit and infrastructure around the site. So far the negotiations have been kept secret, so it’s not clear where each party is in the process. Whether Malik will look for an alternative location for the stadium in the Triangle if the downtown proposal falls through is under wraps as well.
“We are working diligently with all interested parties to ensure that the project becomes a reality,” says North Carolina FC’s communications director Marco Rosa of bringing a soccer stadium downtown. “We know MLS prefers stadia in vibrant, downtown urban settings and this is what we are working towards.”
Here’s a look at the predicted economic impact of a MLS stadium in downtown Raleigh. The numbers are good, but the clock is surely ticking.
By the Numbers: Average Annual Economic Impact and Net Present Value (NPV) Over 17 Years*
North Carolina: $262M in annual economic activity, 1,960 jobs, $5.6M annual state tax revenue, $2.8B NPV
Wake County: $213M in annual economic activity, 1,470 jobs, $5.5M in local tax revenue, $2B NPV
Downtown Raleigh: $181M in economic activity, 700 jobs, $5M in local tax revenue, $1.5B NPV
*Source: Economic Leadership LLC