State government site, no taxpayer money make up Raleigh's MLS stadium plan
Posted July 19
Raleigh, N.C. — For months, followers of the Triangle’s bid for a Major League Soccer expansion team have repeated a common refrain: What about the stadium? On Wednesday, organizers took a large step toward answering that question.
At a morning press conference at the Raleigh City Market, Steve Malik, owner of the North Carolina FC and spearhead of the MLS bid, unveiled renderings and a preferred site for a new multi-purpose entertainment stadium complex in downtown Raleigh. The facility is proposed for the grounds of the North Carolina state government complex, adjacent to Halifax Mall at the corners of North Salisbury Street and Peace Street. The land is currently owned by the state. The proposed downtown stadium would house the North Carolina FC men’s soccer team and likely the North Carolina Courage of NWSL, and be designed for other entertainment, retail and residential uses.
Malik said that he will partner with Kane Realty of Raleigh for the project, and he continues the process of securing private financing for construction.
“I haven’t asked for [public] funding,” Malik said. “But community support and being able to go through a process where you listen to your constituents and mold your final proposal for what’s best for the community, a number of things could happen. One of the things I’ve mentioned is infrastructure, parking and transportation. It’s dual use, particularly when you’re talking about a facility that’s going to have office space, ground-floor retail and living units in it, as planned.”
That said, Malik wouldn’t foreclose the possibility of soliciting revenue from Raleigh’s occupancy and prepared food and beverage taxes already earmarked for downtown development.
“We haven’t asked for that yet,” Malik said. “I have to say, I’ve already had a dozen people suggest that that might help us get a [MLS] bid. So, that’s interesting feedback.”
The stadium announcement came on a day when MLS representatives, principally league president Mark Abbott, visited the area and toured three potential sites with members of the Triangle MLS Committee. The visitors rode in WRAL-TV's helicopter, Sky 5, and were accompanied by Triangle MLS Chairman and Capitol Broadcasting Company Vice President James F. Goodmon Jr.
CBC is the parent company of local media outlets including WRAL-TV, three sports radio stations, WRAL-FM radio and WRAL.com.
On Wednesday, Abbott took note of marked improvements in both the market and professional soccer apparatus since he was last in Raleigh.
“There’s been growth and development in the downtown area,” Abbott said. “And Steve [Malik] coming in, in terms of taking ownership of the club, has been very beneficial for the club. I think he’s provided a vision for trying to grow professional soccer in this market, and trying to bring Major League Soccer to this market. Today was a good experience for us, to be able to meet with business leaders and elected officials, and to tour the stadium site … I think there is a compelling vision [here], not only for trying to bring Major League Soccer but trying to connect that [preferred stadium site] with the downtown area, to revitalize the Halifax Mall, to be part of the vitalization of downtown.”
Malik also shared the partial findings of an economic impact survey, commissioned by NCFC, that estimated an economic stimulus of $2 billion for Wake County and $1.5 billion for downtown Raleigh on jobs, wages, sales revenue and tax revenue over 17 years of facility construction and operation. The study predicted pro soccer could add 1,960 jobs in North Carolina, including 1,470 in Wake County, along with over $5 million in additional annual state, county and local tax revenue.
Wednesday's MLS site visit, culminating with a 5 p.m. public rally at Raleigh City Market, is the most public pronouncement about the Triangle’s MLS bid since Malik announced his intentions last December.
“We’ve been very careful not to get the cart ahead of the horse,” said NCFC President Curt Johnson. “If we’ve done anything well, that’s something that I feel very positive about. What I mean by that is we know what a winning bid looks like, and there was no need for us to have a weekly conversation with Major League Soccer until we got to this point: a preferred site location, an in-depth analysis of what size stadium we need, the key amenities of the stadium, and the economic impact study that substantiates the wherewithal of our community to support it and the desire for it to happen. That’s what we’ve been working really hard on since January.”
Wednesday was about impressing locals and visitors alike. Now comes the hard part of gauging public and political appetite for not only this downtown stadium project, but professional soccer in general.
“Clearly there have been a lot of conversations, and the dialogue will certainly grow now,” Johnson said. “The vision is laid out now for the public to see, for everyone to see. So, the dialogue will get very specific about the land, the development opportunity and how we get it done as a community.”