If local soccer advocates have their way, downtown Raleigh will become home to a Major League Soccer stadium.
The North Carolina Football Club unveiled a proposal Wednesday to build a $150 million stadium and entertainment complex on Peace Street, across from Seaboard Station on the northern end of downtown. The proposal comes as part of an effort to jump from the North American Soccer League to Major League Soccer – the premiere U.S. soccer league.
MLS executives were in attendance Wednesday in a City Market event space when NCFC owner Steve Malik announced his proposal, which would require the team to partner with the state government.
“This is another important step in our pursuit of a Major League Soccer Franchise,” Malik, a software entrepreneur, said in a statement.
“Our vision is to make this facility a crown jewel for downtown Raleigh, providing a world-class sporting and social experience for fans and the community.”
Malik wants 13 acres in the area between the state government campus and Seaboard Station, known as the State Government Complex. The area – bounded by Peace Street, Salisbury Street, Lane Street and the N.C. Railroad easement – includes more than a half-dozen structures that would need to be relocated or demolished to make way for the stadium.
NCFC renderings show a stadium sprawling across land currently occupied by the Archdale Building, Dobbs Building, State Capitol Police station, several small buildings that face Peace Street and the Raleigh and Gaston Seaboard Coast Line Building, which was built in 1882 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The idea is for NCFC to take over the state’s property and for Kane Realty, owned by NCFC supporter John Kane, to develop new office buildings that the state could lease from him.
Renderings circulated by NCFC show high-rise buildings towering over an open-roof soccer stadium. Kane declined to comment on specifics, saying only that he’s eager to help the state government and NCFC.
Former Gov. Pat McCrory, who launched a review of each state-owned building in the city in 2014, said the Archdale Building to be demolished and called on the state to work with the private sector on redevelopment opportunities.
Whether or not Gov. Roy Cooper or state leaders support the plan remains unclear. Cooper’s Department of Administration says it started its own review of state properties earlier this year and on Wednesday provided little information about its involvement with NCFC.
The department “was approached by North Carolina FC in the spring of this year,” administration spokeswoman Alexandra Mendoza said in an email.
“We provided data and information as requested about the Downtown Complex,” she added. “The department received North Carolina FC’s proposal yesterday.”
Malik bought the RailHawks in 2015 and rebranded the franchise, making it clear he wanted to pursue a MLS expansion slot. North Carolina FC plays at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
The Triangle is completing against 11 other cities for four spots as part of the expansion: Charlotte; Sacramento; San Diego; Detroit; Nashville, Tenn.; Austin, Texas; St. Louis, Mo.; Phoenix; and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.; Cincinnati; and San Antonio.
A 22,000-seat stadium in Raleigh would generate $262 million a year in economic activity for North Carolina and create 1,960 jobs, according to Economic Leadership, an economic development consulting firm in Raleigh. It would generate $5.6 million in annual tax revenue for the state.
The northern end of downtown is on the brink of lots of changes. The N.C. Department of Transportation is replacing the Wade Avenue bridge over Capital Boulevard and the Capital bridge over Peace Street, creating an improved gateway into downtown.
Raleigh plans to turn a 14-acre site near Peace Street and Capital Boulevard into a park with a greenway.
Kane Realty and a partner want to build apartments and retail at Peace and West streets, near the proposed stadium site.