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Are Raleigh MLS bid, downtown soccer stadium still in the works? 4 things to know

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.

North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik met with The News & Observer on Wednesday to discuss a wide range of topics, including his bid for the franchise to join Major League Soccer.

Here are four things to know about where the bid stands and what's next.

It's all about the stadium

"If we get the stadium, I think we'll be getting the franchise," Malik said.

MLS has 23 clubs currently and has announced new franchises coming to Nashville and Miami. That brings the league's total up to 25, with plans to reach 28 teams. The original timeline was for all 28 teams to play by 2020, but then again, MLS also said it would award two bids in 2017, but only Nashville received one.

A stadium deal is key for any bid, but Malik's plan to put the stadium on state-owned property at the corner of Salisbury and Peace streets in downtown Raleigh means navigating the political landscape and getting city, county and state governments on board.

Malik said he would work quickly with the winners of this week's primaries. Locally, Wake County commissioner John Burns, a stadium proponent, lost on Tuesday, as did stadium opponent Joel Ford, a state senator from Charlotte.

Malik did add that he thinks the Raleigh-versus-Charlotte element of the stadium bid — the Queen City was one of 12 finalists but has since fallen behind — is overblown.

A promotional video from the North Carolina Football Club pitches the virtues of Raleigh as the best place for a Major League Soccer expansion team to land in 2020. The pitch includes building a new stadium in downtown Raleigh.

Public financing possible

After originally saying that the 22,000-seat stadium would not use any public money, outside of infrastructure improvements, Malik indicated all options were on the table.

He laid out a scenario where the stadium was financed for $13 million a year, estimating that the city and county would each get an economic boost of $5 million in return, plus another $1.3 million in hotel taxes.

"The net difference is less than $3 million a year," Malik said.

Malik said he was willing to consider a quasi-governmental board like the Centennial Authority, which governs PNC Arena, to oversee the stadium and any public money involved. In that scenario, North Carolina FC and the NC Courage, the women's team Malik also owns, would be rent-paying tenants in the stadium, as the Carolina Hurricanes and N.C. State are at PNC.

More events to downtown

The original plan called for the stadium to be part of a greater mixed-use complex including 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.

Malik said that aside from home games for the men's and women's teams, the venue would need to attract about 75 additional events.

"That multi-use aspect has energized the conversation," Malik said.

The plan lacks provisions for stadium parking, but Malik said that there are 15,800 potential weekend parking spots in downtown parking decks, including those that would be constructed for the office space being developed along with the stadium. He also said he hoped Seaboard Station could be used as a mass-transit hub for the stadium if commuter train service to Union Station is launched.

What happens to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary?

Would moving to downtown Raleigh leave Cary without its biggest tenant at WakeMed Soccer Park?

The club said it would use it as the hub of its training complex for both teams and could play early rounds of the U.S. Open Cup or other lower-profile games in the smaller venue.

"Most communities do have a 10,000-seat stadium and a 20,000-seat seat stadium," Malik said.

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