Signaling the seriousness of their MLS expansion push, owners of the Charlotte Independence are seeking additional investors.
The Independence are in an less-than-ideal facility situation, as the team is using the Ramblewood Soccer Complex on what it hopes is a temporary basis. What is being eyed as a long-term solution by the team is a renovation of Memorial Stadium (shown above), a proposal that is currently under consideration by both Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Preliminary plans have looked at renovating Memorial Stadium to a USL-sized facility, but potentially adding to the project if the MLS would wind up in Charlotte. Charlotte has a few advantages when it comes to an MLS bid, including a solid corporate base and sizable population, and the city has supported past friendlies in large numbers.
Independence managing partner Jim McPhilliamy says that additional investors will be needed to support an MLS entry, which is why the franchise has hired Accelerate Sports to recruit additional funding. Accelerate is joining the project with previous experience on similar projects. More from the Charlotte Business Journal:
Brent Lawrence, Accelerate founder and CEO, has advised Sacramento Republic FC, which, like Charlotte, is a member of the United Soccer League. Sacramento is expected to win an MLS team soon, powered in part by a fan following that has boosted the team to 45 sellouts in 47 home matches since 2014.
The NBA Sacramento Kings and the NFL San Francisco 49ers became part of the Republic’s ownership in 2015.
McPhilliamy and Lawrence are eyeing similar prospects in Charlotte. On Tuesday, Lawrence told me Charlotte boasts many of the attributes the MLS is looking for: a growing population of millennials; a good geographic location between existing franchises in Atlanta, Orlando and Washington; a top 25 TV market (Charlotte ranks 22nd in the U.S.); a history of major league sports; and a strong business sector.
“All of that lines up to be a very solid MLS market,” Lawrence told me. “One of the biggest factors Charlotte has going in its favor is the stadium solution Jim’s working on. It is a phenomenal location.”
As it stands, Charlotte is facing some serious competition from cities such as Sacramento, Cincinnati, San Antonio, and others. That will make increased financial backing all the more important, especially since some of those cities are either further along in the process of attracting an MLS squad or are rolling out ways to enhance their pitch to the league.
Mecklenburg County is expected to receive more information on the proposed Memorial Stadium renovation by the beginning of November.