A Stadium For Raleigh

The Battery in Atlanta: A vision for Downtown Raleigh
The Battery in Atlanta: A vision for Downtown Raleigh

An exciting, transformational development is coming to southeast Raleigh soon—and yes, it does involve a soccer stadium.

Entrepreneur and North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik and developer John Kane are partnering to bring an entertainment complex, with restaurants, bars, ground floor retail and 1,750 housing units, to a parcel of land between South Saunders and Wilmington Streets and I-40. The centerpiece of the development will be a professional, 20,000-seat sports stadium—all the better, the partners hope, to lure the MLS to expand to Raleigh.

“Think LA Live or the Battery in Atlanta,” says Malik. “That’s something we certainly as a community could use.”

The partners hope to use interlocal funds—a pot of money generated from tourism revenues and set aside to help pay for future tourism-promoting projects—to partially finance the estimated $1.9 billion project. City and county officials are expected to allocate interlocal funds to Wake County arts, culture, sports and convention-related projects this summer.

Malik says the project is the perfect fit for an underutilized area of downtown that serves as the southern gateway into the city. City officials and community stakeholders have been looking at ways to breathe new life into the southern corridor for years and Malik says the stadium complex will be a vital component to that revitalization. Its proximity to the Wilmington Street transit line and the city’s historically black colleges, Shaw University and St. Augustine’s, make the property all the more attractive for redevelopment.

“When we polled the people that live in the area, they get most excited about jobs,” Malik says. “We had an economic impact study done that forecast, on average, about 5,900 new jobs. For the economic impact, the net present value is in the $4 billion range. So, you partner with historically black universities, with Wake Tech, and you bring that to life with some substance to it.”

Malik says he hopes to break ground on the project early next year, after getting approval for rezoning from the City and securing funding. The partners are also looking to utilize federal tax incentives that benefit developments in census tracts designated “opportunity zones.” Malik says he isn’t worried about securing interlocal funds for the project as soccer has, and traditionally has had, a lot of support among Raleigh residents.

“Having a youth club with 14,000 kids, 25,000 parents that are voters, we have a very strong base of folks that want to see soccer do well and that have some passion around the sport,” Malik says. “The youth club is the largest contributor to interlocal funds through the tournament series. For us to keep that, we need to update facilities, provide more fields.”

Providing more fields—and even some other Raleigh wishlist items, including, potentially, affordable and workforce housing—may also be in the cards for this project, too. The partners have secured adjoining acreage to where the entertainment complex is planned and Malik says they’re willing to “work on some of the other issues the community would like to see as pat of this development.”

“We’re excited to be able to bring a development that hits all the checkboxes that Raleigh has been looking for,” Malik says. “We know people want it. They’re anxious to get the process going and light up downtown with great entertainment, festivals and have us take our place as the next tier of city.”