The Independence launched last year and have since played the bulk of their home games at Ramblewood Soccer Complex, which is not viewed as a viable longterm facility. While the team has struggled in terms of attendance, there is a belief that more a permanent, modern stadium would allow professional soccer in Charlotte to take off. Past English Premier League exhibitions at the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium have attracted large crowds, and there has previously been talk that Charlotte could push for an expansion MLS franchise.
What is being proposed by the Independence is a private-public investment of at least $22 million to modernize Memorial Stadium. In conjunction with the county and the City of Charlotte, the Independence would widen the pitch and make other overhauls to the stadium, which would be ready for play in 2019. The final cost of the project depends largely on whether a natural grass or artificial turf pitch is installed, as the latter is projected to push the final price tag to $24.7 million.
Memorial Stadium is a venue that stands out for its historical significance. A Works Progress Administration project that first opened in 1936, Memorial Stadium has maintained many of its original characteristics, including a stone wall that surrounds the playing field. The wall would need to be relocated in order to expand the pitch, putting it at the center of the much larger project. More from the Charlotte Post:
“We have a business model that calls for about 5,000 people per game,” Independence President and Managing Partner Jim McPhilliamy said at the team unveil in September 2014. McPhilliamy assured supporters the team had permission from the city to “widen the pitch” at Memorial to 70-75 yards, making it regulation size.
“They ended up having a problem—they had to take part of the wall down,” [county commissioner George] Dunlap said. “They did some renovations to shore it up—they were trying to do that before they determined what they were going to do. This soccer association wanted them to expand it, so that it would have the necessary width so that they could play professional sports in the field, but the building itself needed some renovations. It takes a while to do the designing and all this other stuff.”
The renovation design, which has been completed by HOK, also calls for the addition of a War Memorial and several levels of seating–including berm, general admission, club, ADA accessible, and terrace–to bring the stadium’s total capacity to 10,870. The renovation will be formally presented to the commissioners on July 6.
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