State Politics

Will NC leaders explore the MLS stadium idea? Funding pulled off the table

Will this downtown Raleigh Major League Soccer stadium happen?

An artist’s rendering of what a Major League Soccer stadium in downtown Raleigh might look like if North Carolina Football Club plans for a public-private partnership to build the facility come to be.
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An artist’s rendering of what a Major League Soccer stadium in downtown Raleigh might look like if North Carolina Football Club plans for a public-private partnership to build the facility come to be.

At the start of Wednesday, it looked like state legislators might investigate the financial cost of moving state employees off government property to make way for a soccer stadium.

But as Thursday approached, the idea appeared to be fading into the night like a wayward penalty shot.

The North Carolina Football Club, which wants to jump from a second-tier league to Major League Soccer, in July unveiled a proposal to build a $150 million stadium and entertainment complex at the corner of Salisbury and Peace streets in downtown Raleigh.

Raleigh is one of 12 cities across the country vying for four MLS expansion spots.

A House bill proposed as a special session of the N.C. General Assembly began Wednesday would’ve allotted $200,000 to the Department of Administration to study and plan “for the potential displacement of State employees with minimal disruption” if a soccer stadium is built at the proposed Raleigh location.

The money didn’t, however, make it into the final version of the bill that House and Senate leaders tentatively agreed to Wednesday evening. The bill was amended to exclude the funding just hours after Sen. Harry Brown of Jacksonville, who is the Republican majority leader in the Senate, said that it would be “premature” to study the issue.

News & Observer reporter Andy Specht takes you on a tour of the site of a proposed downtown Raleigh site for a MLS soccer stadium.

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.

The Raleigh proposal calls for building a stadium with private money, although governments could be on the hook for infrastructure improvements in the area. NCFC declined to comment on the bill.

A couple of state legislators from the Charlotte area – Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte of Cornelius and Democratic Sen. Joel Ford of Charlotte – spoke out against NCFC’s proposal when it was revealed. Charlotte is another of the 12 cities vying for an expansion spot and they said the General Assembly would be showing favoritism if it were to help NCFC.

But Mecklenburg County commissioners dealt the Charlotte group’s MLS bid a major blow in August when they voted to limit the county’s financial contribution to a future stadium there.

Steve Abbott, a spokesman for the Department of Administration, said the bill was proposed without the department’s input.

“The Department of Administration has met with the Raleigh soccer group and the agency is working to understand the impact of demolishing 450,000 square feet of office space if land were designated for a soccer stadium,” Abbott said. “While we weren’t asked about the $200,000 study, we’d be glad to undertake it.”

Video: Several hundred soccer enthusiasts marched through downtown to show visiting MLS soccer officials that the City of Oaks wants the new expansion team.

Colin Campbell of the N.C. Insider contributed to this report

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

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