Raleigh MLS bidders want state to raze government buildings to build them a stadium

Another day, another prospective MLS team looking for a “public-private partnership” to build a stadium. Today’s contender: Raleigh, where the owners of North Carolina Football Club (catchy name) want the state to raze a government office complex and give them the land for a soccer venue:

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.

Yeah, it should be unclear, considering here’s what the site looks like now, per Google Maps:
That is a whole mess of stuff that is already built and would have to be replaced! Me, that probably wouldn’t have been my first ask, but maybe the team owners are thinking they can negotiate down to a public park or something.

Aside from this, there aren’t many details on how the funding for a stadium would work, other than that it would cost $150 million and, according to the News & Observer, “would generate $262 million a year in economic activity for North Carolina and create 1,960 jobs, according to Economic Leadership, an economic development consulting firm in Raleigh. It would generate $5.6 million in annual tax revenue for the state.”

A soccer team selling 20,000 seats a game for 19 home games at, let’s be generous and give them $30 a pop, plus $30 in concessions and parking, apply a 2x multiplier just for the hell of it, that’ll almost come to $5.6 million a year at Raleigh’s 7.25% sales tax rate. Assuming, of course, that all the North Carolina F.C. fans would otherwise be spending that money out of the state, which, um, yeah. This seems like almost as terrible an idea as that time El Paso tore down its City Hall to build a minor-league baseball stadium, so I really hope it happens, because I need new laughably tragic stories to tell during radio interviews.


11 comments on “Raleigh MLS bidders want state to raze government buildings to build them a stadium

  1. The interesting thing about this project is the razing of the downtown buildings actually seems to the be State governments idea. They feel the old facilities are too costly to renovate and have been moving workers out of them for some time. This could turn into a win-win situation if both parties get what they are looking for. Here’s a little background on Project Phoenix

    http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article147528594.html

  2. Well it was done in El Paso when they tore down city hall for a minor league baseball team that averaged 1500 a game.

    • Hey, the Chihuahuas average about 7500 per game. Which if I’m doing my sports math correctly, means about 75 trillion dollars a year in new economic activity.

  3. 1,960 jobs? I know there are eleven players on a soccer team, along with a few substitutes and coaches, but are they saying a soccer stadium employs 1900+ full time ticket takers, ushers, concession workers and groundskeepers?

    • Obviously, we need to see the full release of the economic study, but it was intended to cover the construction and operation of a multi-building, work-live-play complex over 17 years. It’s not based on the number of employees of the soccer team.

      • Okay, so even assuming that an office-and-retail complex would create economic activity out of thin air rather than just moving it around, what, then, is the benefit of the soccer stadium? If work-live-play complexes are so great, they should build more of that and skip the soccer part.

      • Some of the other bids have billionaires as owners and already have land under private control. Also it seems they are considering dipping into a downtown development grant fund the city has set up. Yes there are other bids looking for public funds but there are bids that don’t. This bid also has Charlotte to deal with.

        • Yes, those are facts about the other bids and anecdotes and assumptions about the Raleigh bid. If you are comparing Steve Malik to Bruton Smith, fair enough. But Malik is not the only party in the bid group (and to my knowledge he hasn’t publicly revealed who all his investors/interested parties are at this time). I wouldn’t dismiss this group out of hand until we have more facts available to evaluate.

  4. Neil, I just wanted to let you know that I’m an avid reader of Field of Schemes, and I’m so glad that you’ve finally had a chance to tackle a story in my hometown. I’m quite familiar with the area the soccer promoters would like to have, and the buildings there (some of which are parking garages) are aging eyesores in need of repairs whose expense would probably exceed the value of the existing structures. So there’s a lot of enthusiasm for tearing them down and putting *something* on that tract.

    But like you, I’m extremely skeptical that an MLS stadium is the best something to put there. The area just north of the land we’re talking about is a vibrant mix of nice restaurants and other commercial outlets. Due east of that is a small university, north and east is a great little residential neighborhood, and behind that a community center and a re-purposed former textile mill that today is a really nice corporate space. So there’s this really great neighborhood, and then you get to the other side of Peace Street and it comes to a screeching halt in a sea of concrete. It really does seem like a great site for a work-live-shop complex, just, you know, without the huge soccer stadium in the middle eating up real estate.

    Incidentally, I had a really constructive exchange with my Wake County Commissioner about this proposal via Facebook. (Seriously, his willingness to exchange ideas on this was really laudable.) Right now, because the land is state-owned, it contributes nothing to local tax rolls, so local officials are interesting in getting the land in private hands, because even a little something in tax revenues is better than literally nothing. The one thing that jumped out at me, though, is that folks seem to be wildly overestimating the number of non-MLS events that would happen at this stadium. I’m guessing it would be close to zero, aside from events cannibalized from our existing 10,000-seat soccer stadium, but people really seem to think it could bring in a lot of concerts or whatever.

    Also, and I know of what I speak here, the proposed site is in a neighborhood that would really struggle to move 20,000 people in and out of the stadium via the streets that are near the site. Fans would probably have to walk a good ways to the gate if this thing got built, for what that’s worth.

    The last week has also made me really skeptical of Raleigh’s viability as a home for an MLS team. There’s definitely a small coterie of dedicated fans, but the general reaction locally has been apathy. There’s not a groundswell of interest in a team, and there’s the real risk that the stadium could get built and the team could flop. Ironically, the plan could get derailed by opposition from local leaders in Charlotte who don’t want the state to give a helping hand to the rival bid in Raleigh, which could potentially undercut their own efforts to throw taxpayer money at MLS.

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