We have a new Wilmington USL League One team on tap for 2024, as an investment group purchases exclusive rights to an expansion franchise in North Carolina’s Cape Fear region.
The expansion plan includes a new soccer-specific stadium, training fields and a mixed-use development that would include a food hall and beer garden among other amenities. This combination of soccer stadium/mixed-use development is turning into the preferred economic model for USL expansion.
The group is led by primary investor Scott Sullivan, Co-Founder of investment management company Cameron Management; Chris Mumford, Professor of Practice at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Dewan Bader, former Wilmington Hammerheads FC midfielder and North Carolina FC coach.
“Wilmington has the reputation of being a soccer community that features strong youth clubs, competitive college teams and supportive soccer fans. However, over the past few years, there’s been something missing,” Dewan Bader said via press statement. “People in the community–including coaches and players–really miss having a professional soccer club to support. Having played here in the 90’s and having lived in North Carolina for years, I am honored to be part of this exciting new chapter.”
“The goal of this project is to change life trajectories for the better, both on and off the pitch. Our focus is on wellness, entertainment and sport.” Chris Mumford said via press statement. “We believe that a fan-centric experience on match days is vitally important, with entertaining play on the field, great food and a sense of belonging. As a result, we will be starting listening and dialog sessions with constituents to understand the feasibility and how fans and key stakeholders want to shape the club.”
“The USL is excited to work with Scott, Chris, Dewan and the entire Wilmington community on this transformational project,” said USL Chief Operating Officer Justin Papadakis via press statement. “USL to Wilmington’s strengths include local ownership, a collaborative mindset and expertise in real estate, business and soccer–all of which make a great recipe for success.”
Wilmington has a reputation as being a challenging market for professional sports. Minor League Baseball investors, including the Atlanta Braves, have sought public funding for a new baseball ballpark, only to see voters shoot down a proposal in a 2012 referendum and another effort in 2017 failing after intense opposition from conservative lobbying groups and talk-radio hosts.