By RYAN TOLMICH
Heading into the team’s inaugural USL Pro campaign, the Charlotte Independence are set to open the checkbook to secure a home.
The Independence, who will begin play in 2015 and will be affiliated with the Colorado Rapids, are willing to spend $2 million to expand local Memorial Stadium in an effort to begin play in the venue next season.
The stadium, which is set to undergo separate $4 million renovations for a concourse and press box, is currently unsuitable for soccer due to narrow field dimensions. The club hopes to widen the field, which will shrink the stadium’s capacity from 17,000 to 14,000 seats.
“Soccer doesn’t currently fit in that stadium,” said club executive Wade Leaphart. “I don’t know of any sports team that kind of comes to the table with a checkbook and says ‘Hey, can you upgrade suites so we can get an event?’ We want to be a good community partner and being such a historic landmark in a great part of town, we want to help preserve it as well.”
Leaphart went on to say that the stadium expansion would be the first step in moving towards earning Charlotte an MLS team.
The club is hoping to sign a 10-year deal with the county to secure Memorial Stadium for at least 15 games a season. The team currently expects roughly 4,000 to 5,000 fans each game, while 600 season tickets have already been sold.
If the team fails to secure the stadium deal, the Independence could play at a currently under-construction complex in nearby Pineville; at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; or at numerous different sites throughout the season.
What do you think of the potential stadium expansion? What do you think of Charlotte as a soccer market?
Share your thoughts below.