Under a new proposal, a 20,000-seat North Carolina FC stadium would anchor a $1.9 billion mixed-used development in Raleigh named Downtown South.
An effort backed by Steve Malik, owner of USL Championship’s North Carolina FC and NWSL’s North Carolina Courage, and developer John Kane calls for an outdoor multi-purpose stadium that anchors surrounding redevelopment. When built out over approximately 55 acres off South Saunders Street, the Downtown South development would include the stadium, along with 1.6 million square feet of office space, 1,200 hotel rooms, 1,750 residential units, 125,000 square feet of retail and service space, and green space and public areas.
The development would be built over multiple phases, the first of which would include the stadium. A timeline on Downtown South’s website lists early 2020 as a potential groundbreaking date, facilitating a 2023 opening for the stadium. However, the prospects of the group’s request for Interlocal Agreement funds to help facilitate the project are far from certain, and Malik emphasized the importance of those funds to the project’s feasibility on Tuesday–noting that he and Kane have not yet closed on the land. More from the News & Observer:
It is unclear, however, if the stadium will be able to get any of that local money, let alone $13 million per year. As The News & Observer reported last week, the soccer stadium was not included on an initial recommendation list for money, while other existing entities, like PNC Arena and the convention center, were included.
To get the money, the group will need to convince a majority of the Wake County Commissioners and Raleigh City Council to vote for its project. A vote could come as soon as August, so the stadium’s fate should be known relatively soon.
“The time is now,” Malik said of garnering support for the stadium.
“We have not closed on the land,” he added. “We need interlocal funds to justify this investment.”
Malik has had MLS expansion ambitions for North Carolina FC for some time. In 2017, he unveiled a proposal for a new stadium that would anchor surrounding development on state-owned land in downtown Raleigh, but then revealed this year that he and Kane were targeting a different site for the project.
When discussing the latest plans, Malik has emphasized that professional soccer–both for North Carolina FC and the Courage–would be part of the proposed stadium’s event slate. However, he has indicated that even in the absence of MLS, there is a still a demand for an outdoor stadium in downtown Raleigh that can host a variety of events. More from WRALSportsFan.com:
While Kane will be front and center for Tuesday’s press conference, MLS will be mostly missing. Raleigh’s expansion effort remains active and ongoing, and Malik stresses that Downtown South enhances his bid as MLS continues to add expansion slots. However, Malik says this project fills a community need regardless of MLS.
“I’ve talked to literally hundreds of people, and while soccer is something that’s obviously important to me, when you talk about a $1.9 billion development, people want entertainment downtown,” Malik says. “We asked in our survey how important is it that this project include MLS, and frankly it’s not that important. People would love to come out and see a variety of events, soccer being part of them.”
With a lot of questions about future MLS expansion still unanswered, there has been a wave of proposed stadium/development projects surfacing in recent months, including similar plans in Indianapolis and Las Vegas. There are a lot of questions about where some of those plans–including the new proposal from Malik and Kane–will stand over the long run, and the North Carolina FC stadium plan will require funding concerns to be ironed out. We took a closer look at the MLS expansion race earlier this month.
RELATED STORIES: North Carolina FC Stadium Funding Plan Faces Challenge; Latest North Carolina FC Stadium Plan to be Unveiled Next Week; Malik: Proposed Raleigh Soccer Stadium Not Contingent on MLS; North Carolina FC Stadium Pitch Focused on New Site; North Carolina Pitches $300M in Local Funding for New Raleigh MLS Stadium; MLS Expansion Talks Still Abuzz in North Carolina; Malik: Public Financing for North Carolina FC Stadium Possible; North Carolina FC to Continue MLS Expansion Pursuit; Four MLS Expansion Finalists Announced; Charlotte-Area Officials Express Concerns Over North Carolina FC Plan; North Carolina FC Unveils MLS Stadium Proposal; MLS Set to Visit Raleigh on Wednesday; North Carolina FC: We’re Still Working on Stadium Plan; Wake County Leaders Backing MLS Expansion Bid; New for 2017: North Carolina FC