New soccer stadium in Raleigh?

According to Katie McIntyre’s Sports Venue Business, North Carolina FC have ramped up their bid for a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise by unveiling plans for a 20,000-seat stadium and private development district in downtown Raleigh.

North Carolina FC has said that the district will boost tourism through additional visitors to Raleigh and Wake County, while also creating jobs and revitalizing an underused area of downtown.

The district will be known as Downtown South and sit on approximately 55 acres of land at downtown Raleigh’s southern edge. As well as the 20,000-seat, open-air stadium, the plans feature more than $1.9 billion in private development through street-level retail, office space and housing.

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The stadium, which is expected to cost $180 million, designed by Gensler, will also host North Carolina’s women’s professional soccer team, North Carolina Courage. In addition, it will stage marquee events such as concerts, festivals, graduations, trade shows and championship-level sporting events.

KRC Chief Executive, John Kane, said, “This project holds tremendous promise for the City of Raleigh. It’s unlike anything I’ve worked on in my career. To be part of something that would enhance the lifestyle and overall appeal of our city while strengthening the local economy in such a meaningful way is powerful. I’m hopeful that Raleigh City Council and Board of County Commissioners will enable this transformational project to become a reality.”

The district will be privately funded but the group has asked Wake County for US$13m per year in Interlocal Funds to be awarded for debt service and maintenance of the stadium.

Construction work is slated to begin in early 2020, with the Club having targeted 2023 for the completion of the first phase of the development, including the stadium.

MLS revised its expansion plans earlier this year, amending its previous goal of 28 teams to 30. Sacramento and St Louis are expected to claim the next two expansion slots for an increased fee of $200 million, adding to franchises in Miami, Nashville and Austin, all of which are joining the league in the coming years.

As a result, North Carolina FC will likely be competing for the final expansion slot with the likes of Las Vegas, which recently announced a new stadium proposal. MLS is yet to decide the expansion fee and timetable for the 30th team.