Raleigh, N.C. — If the state opted to sell, the government-owned property the North Carolina Football Club is eyeing for its proposed downtown soccer stadium would be worth about $91 million.
That's according to an estimate by State Property Office Director Tim Walton, who told Department of Administration officials in an email last month that $7 million an acre would be the "minimum starting point" for the 13-acre parcel of state land the club hopes will become home to a new Major League Soccer franchise.
Rather than buy the land outright, NCFC wants to form a public-private partnership with the state to use the property, which is bounded by Peace, Salisbury and Lane streets just north of downtown. Building the stadium would require the state to demolish 10 government buildings, as well as parking decks that represent almost half of the state-owned parking spaces in the downtown state government complex.
The project would also require the relocation of the state's main data lines and facilities that provide heating and cooling to most of the state-owned buildings downtown.
NCFC owner Steve Malik has said he is not asking the public to fund the stadium's estimated $150 million construction costs. But much remains unclear about the terms of any potential lease with the state or how the plan would be financed – and whether there's a political will to upend the almost 1,000 state employees who work in the property's aging buildings.
In an email to her staff July 21, Secretary of Administration Machelle Sanders said her agency had yet to receive "an offer from anyone related to this topic" but was in the process of responding to the club's questions about building operating costs.
"At this point, we are merely responding to requests as we would any other citizen," Sanders wrote in the email, obtained by WRAL News via a public records request.
In an eight-page memo to the governor and leaders of the state House and Senate sent the day before the football club's public announcement of the plans, the club said the larger stadium complex would provide 750,000 square feet of office space "providing the state government and other tenants with updated office and work environments." That would more than double the existing state office space on the site.
Whether the club would pay to lease the land from the the state or make some other arrangement is still up for discussion, says Billie Redmond, chief executive of Raleigh-based Trademark Properties, which heads up site selection for the stadium project.
"To make a far more detailed and appropriate proposal, it really does come down to a collaborative working relationship between the state and the club," Redmond said.
'The truth of where we are'
Top leaders in the Department of Administration have met with developers and club officials twice since late February and have responded to requests for information about the proposed site. Redmond said they plan to meet with state officials again in August as part of "a very public conversation" about what form any potential partnership will take.
"We don't try to be vague about it," she said. "It is the truth of where we are."
The club has touted its plans, part of a battle with 11 other cities to woo one of two MLS expansion teams, as a boon for the state. It's own economic analysis estimated the stadium would generate $2.8 billion in economic activity over the next two decades and $5.4 million in additional state tax revenue annually.
"What we are proposing is complicated, but it's an opportunity to do something extraordinary," Redmond said.
The $7-million-an-acre land price estimate from the state circulated among staff internally at the Department of Administration the day after Malik announced plans for his preferred stadium site. The director of the State Property Office also estimated that the cost to move state employees and lease office space would top $6 million in the first year.
DOA spokeswoman Alexandra Mendoza said those rough estimates were not part of the discussions with the football club.
"I wouldn't say it impacts things either way," Mendoza said. "It's purely a factual look at the proposal."
MLS is expected to announce the location of its two expansion teams by the end of 2017. Raleigh, Charlotte, Nashville, Tenn., Indianapolis, Detroit, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Antonio, Sacramento, Calif., Cincinnati, Tampa Bay and San Diego are all in the running. Two more expansion teams will be announced in future years.
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