A Dozen Groups Submit MLS Expansion Bids

San Diego MLS Stadium rendering

With Tuesday’s application deadline in the rear-view mirror, there are now 12 MLS expansion options in the mix. 

Throughout Tuesday afternoon, details about the MLS expansion bids were pouring in. As was covered here, St. Louis submitted its proposal after getting one step closer to city funding, while backers of a franchise in Charlotte are making the case for more funds toward their proposed stadiumDan Gilbert will make another run at the site he and Tom Gores have pitched for a new facility in Detroit, and Nashville officials confirmed that they are zeroing in on The Fairgrounds Nashville as the location for a soccer-specific venue.

Those cities account for four of the original 10 that were announced by the MLS as expansion candidates in December. The remaining six also submitted their pitches, with San Diego (shown above) and the Tampa Bay Rowdies making their cases in a unique fashion. As expected, FC Cincinnati will be leading Cincinnati’s proposal after its successful debut season in the USL, though additional details on how the club will pursue a new stadium, if necessary, will likely be released at a later date.

The Triangle region of North Carolina will be represented by North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik. According to The News & Observer, Malik and a group of investors will cover the $150 million stadium. Details on design and location are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

San Antonio is moving forward its bid, as San Antonio FC owner Spurs Sports & Entertainment is proposing an expansion of Toyota Field.

As expected, Sacramento is also proceeding with its bid, which includes a new stadium and mixed-use development at the Sacramento rail yards site. Kevin Nagle, the managing partner of the USL’s Sacramento Republic FC, is leading a group that includes Hewlett Packard CEO and one-time California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, her husband Dr. Griff Harsh, and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York.

Phoenix Rising FC stadium rendering

Beyond the original 10 candidates, two organizations joined the expansion mix. Phoenix Rising FC is pitching a new stadium and complex (shown above) as part of its bid, which is being led by Berke Bakay. Bakay is the hear of the group that purchased the USL franchise last year.

As covered here on TuesdayIndy Eleven–which made a serious run at the MLS several years ago–will make push for the league. Club president Jeff Belskus and owner Ersal Ozdemir have said that a new stadium in downtown Indianapolis could be constructed if Indianapolis’s proposal is accepted.

The NASL franchise enters the mix with a slate of additional investors, and several years worth of attendance figures that reflect solid fan support. Some details of the Indy Eleven’s proposed 20,000-seat stadium, however, will need to be worked out, as more funding discussions are sure to take place with local officials. More from The Indianapolis Star:

As with other stadiums in town, the Eleven would like assistance from the city’s Capital Improvement Board, though no agreement has been reached.

Melina Kennedy, president of the CIB, which oversees the tax money that goes to the city’s professional sports teams and facilities, said the idea of an MLS team was “very exciting.”

But, she added, “The reality today is, with the current CIB revenues, we would not be in a position to support another stadium. We wouldn’t have the financial capacity.

The CIB’s money comes from a variety of taxes, including taxes on hotels, food and beverage and auto rentals. Kennedy said the CIB would not be in favor of new taxes to build a soccer stadium.

No bill has been presented this year in the state legislature, but Rep. Timothy Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said the Eleven and legislators continued to discuss the possibility of an upgraded stadium.

“There has been continuous dialogue over what’s needed, and so it’s going to take a team effort, literally, with the owners, the state, the city and other partners within the community to see if that happens,” said Brown, chairman of the House Ways and Means committee.

Expansion will occur in two phases, allowing the MLS to grow to 28 teams. With the 23rd and 24th teams set to enter the league 2018, bids on Tuesday will cover franchises 25-28, with the first two clubs likely to join the league by 2020. The first pair of franchises to join from this round of expansion will likely be announced later this year.


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