Will this downtown Raleigh Major League Soccer stadium happen?
The North Carolina Football Club wants to build a soccer stadium on state-owned land in downtown Raleigh, but it’s too early to say whether the plan is feasible, even if Major League Soccer picks the Triangle as part of its expansion.
The club on Wednesday unveiled a proposal 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 MLS – the premier U.S. soccer league.
Under the plan, a 22,000-seat stadium would anchor a mixed-use complex with a conference center, 750,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of retail space, 1,200 residential units and at least 300 hotel rooms.
The 13-acre site, bounded by Peace, Salisbury and Lane streets, is part of the sprawling state government complex and houses several offices, including the Archdale Building and the State Capitol Police station.
NCFC wants to lease the land from the state, but it’s unclear whether government leaders are on board. Soccer officials met with state leaders earlier this year but didn’t discuss the specifics of a potential deal, said Billie Redmond, founder of TradeMark Properties, which is representing NCFC.
“We’ve had more of a ‘what if’ dialogue,” Redmond said. “We’ve not asked them to give us a yes or no.”
The goal of Wednesday’s announcement, she said, was “to start the dialogue, and to some degree to make it a public dialogue.”
NCFC owner Steve Malik on Tuesday sent an eight-page stadium proposal to Gov. Roy Cooper, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and state House Speaker Tim Moore.
Berger plans to review the proposal, his spokeswoman said Wednesday. Cooper’s Department of Administration is reviewing Malik’s letter, spokeswoman Alexandra Mendoza said in an email.
Malik’s announcement was part of an event Wednesday aimed at showing Major League Soccer officials why they should include Raleigh in its latest expansion. There was a rally Wednesday evening downtown.
“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 bought the RailHawks in 2015 and rebranded the franchise, making it clear he wanted to pursue an MLS expansion slot. NCFC plays at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.
The Triangle is competing against 11 other cities for four spots in the expansion: Charlotte; Sacramento; San Diego; Detroit; Nashville, Tenn.; Austin, Texas; St. Louis, Mo.; Phoenix; and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.; Cincinnati; and San Antonio.
The Raleigh stadium, which would be six or seven stories tall, would host 20 MLS games a year and 65 other annual events, including youth and college games.
Tax money wouldn’t be used to build the stadium, according to plans. But Raleigh and Wake County could be asked to help with infrastructure upgrades.
Are they willing?
“It would be impossible for us to answer that question because no proposal has officially been presented to the City Council,” said Raleigh spokesman John Boyette.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners has previously voiced support for Major League Soccer.
“We love soccer in Wake County,” Sig Hutchinson, the board’s chairman, said in February. “We’ve got 10,000 kids in CASL,” he said, referring to the Capital Area Soccer League. “To me, we’re a soccer city.”
NCFC estimates it would take two years to build the stadium, and the project would create or support 1,960 jobs and generate $5.4 million in state tax revenue each year.
Malik is partnering with John Kane, whose company developed North Hills and who has entered the world of development downtown. Kane is building The Dillon, an ambitious project in the warehouse district, and he plans to put apartments and retail space on Peace Street, near the proposed stadium site.
Under the plan, Kane would build office towers next to the stadium to house state workers. Kane declined to comment on specifics, saying only that he’s eager to help the state government and NCFC.
About 965 state employees work in buildings on the proposed site, according to NCFC.
Former Gov. Pat McCrory launched a review of state-owned buildings in 2014, and the state put some properties up for sale. He said the Archdale Building should be demolished and called on the state to work with the private sector on redevelopment opportunities.
The site under consideration also has the Dobbs Building and the Raleigh and Gaston Seaboard Coast Line Building, which was built in 1882 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cooper started his own review of state-owned properties earlier this year, saying in April that he wants to work with private businesses to improve downtown Raleigh, “but we don’t want to sacrifice unnecessarily state property that could be used for state purposes in the future.”
With or without a new stadium, the northern end of downtown is on the brink of several 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.
Redmond echoed Malik in saying the stadium would be the “crown jewel of downtown Raleigh.” NCFC hopes to reach a deal that benefits the neighborhood, the sports community and the state government, she said.
“What we want is the most detailed and comprehensive conversation about the state’s needs,” Redmond said. “The timing is right.”
Staff writers Luke DeCock and Colin Campbell contributed.