Keeping the team’s expansion plans alive, North Carolina FC put in a request for Wake County sales taxes to fund $11 million annually over 30 years for a new Raleigh MLS stadium.
Steve Malik had submitted a bid for an expansion team and proposed a new Raleigh MLS stadium at the state-owned Halifax Mall site in downtown Raleigh. Malik and his ownership currently own and operate the USL’s North Carolina FC and the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage. The submission to Wake County came after officials requested submissions for hospitality projects that could be backed by the county’s Room Occupancy and Prepared Food and Beverage Taxes. The proposal from North Carolina FC doesn’t contain much past that the team had proposed in the past: a 22,000-seat stadium anchoring a mixed-use development comprised of office, hotel, retail, service, and multi-family residential space. According to the proposal, the mixed-use development is currently planned to include up to 750,000 square feet of office space; 100,000 square feet of retail and service space; two 150-room hotels; 1,200 multi-family housing units; and 1,300 parking spaces. That comes to a total of over $735 million in new construction; all to be privately financed. The facility is more than just a new Raleigh MLS stadium: it’s a Downtown and Entertainment Sports Center (DESC), capable of hosting an assortment of events.
The ask: $11 million a year over 30 years. “Development of the DESC is currently estimated to cost $150 million. In order to appropriately finance and maintain the DESC, North Carolina Football Club recommends interlocal funds in the amount of $11 million per year ($10 million for debt service, $1 million for annual maintenance) for 30 years beginning in fiscal year 2022. Alternative funding options, a shorter financing term, and revenues from NCFC’s long-term lease would significantly lower the overall funding costs.
“City of Raleigh and Wake County Operating Practices with regards to Interlocal Funds call for Major Projects receiving Interlocal Funds to “promote a high level of tourism activity and overnight lodging needs within the county or…provide a high return on investment.” In other words, Interlocal Funds were specifically established to support projects such as the DESC.”
The issue with a request like this: does Wake County commit to the project contingent on Malik and his investors landing an MLS expansion team, or does a new Raleigh MLS stadium get funding to show the county is serious about MLS soccer? This is the sort of stadium that MLS officials usually go for, with additional development part of the stadium deal right off the bat. And increasingly the feeling is that MLS isn’t going to stop the expansion process any time soon, giving cities like Raleigh, Phoenix, St. Louis and Charlotte a chance to up their bids. So MLS expansion should continue to be a fascinating topic for 2019 and beyond.
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