County leaders are offering their help in bringing a Major League Soccer team to the area.
Wake commissioners chairman Sig Hutchinson wrote a letter offering the county government’s support for bringing an MLS team to the area, and the Board of Commissioners voted Monday to send it to league President Mark Abbott.
“On behalf of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, I offer our full support of the North Carolina Football Club’s bid to bring a Major League Soccer team to the Triangle,” Hutchinson wrote in the letter.
Franchise owner Steve Malk announced last year that he’s changing the name of the Carolina RailHawks to North Carolina FC as part of an attempt to bring an MLS team to the Triangle.
MLS supporters asked Hutchinson to write the letter, he said in an interview. Hutchinson described Wake as fertile ground for businesses to make money, noting that 43 people move to the county each day.
“Thirty-two of them are coming from other states like New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania – places with a strong fan base for MLS play because of their close proximity to professional soccer teams,” he wrote. “Eleven of them are coming from other countries such as Mexico, India and China where soccer is a wildly popular spectator sport.”
The MLS plans to add four teams in the coming years, and Malik is competing against 11 other ownership groups for approval. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in December that the league looks at a team’s ownership, market and stadium plans when considering its potential for approval.
Malik has said his group of investors plans to pay for a $150 million stadium and $150 million expansion fee, but may need some public money to pay for infrastructure such as parking and road maintenance. Malik hasn’t revealed the sites he’s considering for a stadium.
League representatives on Monday declined to say how much value the MLS places in local government support. Support from local government is included in every potential expansion market’s application, said Dan Courtemanche, executive vice president of communications. But the details of the applications are confidential, he said.
Hutchinson, for his part, said he thinks the letter will help Malik’s chances.
“It so fits our brand. It’s hip, it’s fun, it’s active. It’s all that we stand for,” he said. “From their perspective, the MLS is interested in economic development and putting fans in seats. We could definitely fill up the stadium.”