The owner of the Charlotte Independence has offered to pay $8 million toward the $24.8-million price tag for Memorial Stadium renovations, giving the USL club a spiffed-up, practically new home.
The rebuilt Memorial Stadium would downsize capacity from the current 20,000 to a new capacity of 10,780: 4,900 general admission, 1,100 club and room for 3,600 more on a grass berm. The field would be synthetic turf, as the new facility would also host professional lacrosse as well as community soccer events. If work begins soon, the project could be completed by the middle of the 2018 season.
The Independence currently play at a temporary facility at Ramblewood Soccer Complex. Team owner Jim McPhilliamy says he could build another small permanent facility for less than $8 million, but that price tag would give him a practically new stadium and plenty of history near uptown Charlotte. Mecklenburg County would up the remainder of the cost of the Memorial Stadium renovations.
As a bonus, the stadium could be expanded down the line to accommodate MLS. Though there’s little talk of MLS in Charlotte at the present — and McPhilliamy, to his credit, isn’t using MLS as a major selling point — there is undoubtedly interest in pro soccer in Charlotte, as friendlies at Bank of America Stadium have been major draws.
“Frankly we could build something standalone and cheaper and own it, but it’s such a great location,” he said. “I don’t think you could find something like (Memorial Stadium) anywhere else in the country.”…
McPhilliamy said the rebuilt stadium could be expanded if the city ever landed a Major League Soccer franchise.
“That would need public support again,” he said. “We can cross that bridge when we get there.”
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.