Wake County

County commissioners: Bring MLS soccer to Wake

West Ham's Andy Carroll (9) and Carolina RailHawk's Simon Mensing (27) battle for a header during the first half between the Carolina RailHawks and West Ham United at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., July 12, 2016.
West Ham's Andy Carroll (9) and Carolina RailHawk's Simon Mensing (27) battle for a header during the first half between the Carolina RailHawks and West Ham United at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., July 12, 2016. tlong@newsobserver.com

County leaders want to formally invite Major League Soccer to Wake.

The owner of North Carolina FC, formerly known as the Carolina RailHawks, announced late last year his goal of bringing an MLS team to the Triangle. It’ll be tough, since a stadium could cost up to $150 million and owner Steve Malik is competing with groups from 11 other U.S. cities that also want to launch an MLS franchise.

With that in mind, the Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday said they plan to write a public letter showing support for Malik’s idea.

“We love soccer in Wake County,” said Sig Hutchinson, Wake board chairman.

“We’ve got 10,000 kids in CASL,” he said, referring to the Capital Area Soccer League. “It’s huge, with the women’s team in Cary and with soccer growing the way it is. To me, we’re a soccer city.”

At this point, the county’s support is mostly symbolic. But it comes less than a month after the Charlotte City Council declined to discuss and vote on spending $43.75 million to fund a new stadium for a potential MLS team.

Other interested cities include Sacramento, San Diego, Detroit, Nashville, Tenn., Austin, Texas, St. Louis, Phoenix, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Cincinnati and San Antonio.

Malik’s group of investors plans to pay for the $150 million stadium and $150 million expansion fee, but may rely on some public money to pay for infrastructure such as parking and road maintenance.

Hutchinson declined to comment on how the county might contribute to the project in the future. Malik’s group is still looking at potential sites for a stadium, Hutchinson said.

“I think they’ve got about eight different sites that they’re looking at right now,” he said. “We don’t want to get into where it is, so long as it’s in Wake County.”

The board is expected to approve a letter of support at its meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. on March 6.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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