Top Stories

Charlotte club willing to commit $2 million to stadium upgrades


Photo by WCCB Charlotte


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.


      • Nevermind, the interwebz knows all.

        per the Charlotte Eagles website (

        Is the Charlotte Eagles team being sold?

        No, the Charlotte Eagles team is not being sold. A local ownership group has purchased the exclusive option to acquire the USL Pro franchise rights at the end of the 2014 season. The Charlotte Eagles Soccer Club will continue to exist and operate the same programs of Biblically based soccer camps, Urban Eagles inner city youth ministry, international tours, etc.

        Why is the USL Pro franchise being sold?

        The decision to sell the USL Pro franchise rights was the result of a two year strategic planning process which took into account changes that have taken place externally in professional soccer as well as internally within Missionary Athletes International during the last several years.

        Externally, the market for professional soccer has continued to expand in the USA as Major League Soccer (MLS) added its twenty-first franchise. During 2013 and 2014 the United Soccer Leagues (USL) began expanding into second tier markets (Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Phoenix) with additional expansion slated for 2015 (Austin, Tulsa, Louisville, Colorado Springs). The MLS and USL have entered into an agreement whereby the MLS will be dropping its reserve teams and expects to have all of its teams participating in the USL Pro by either owning a franchise or through an affiliation agreement with an existing USL Pro franchise. These developments, which are positive for soccer in the US, place increasing demands on the financial and management resources of USL Pro franchises and, for MAI in particular as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization.

        Internally, the Strategic Planning process has identified a vision to build upon MAI’s thirty years’ experience of impacting the lives of youth around the world by generating teams that cultivate coaches and players who influence people to flourish in and for Christ wherever they are planted. We intend to invest resources to support this vision by developing a training center in Charlotte with formal training programs for coaching, inner city ministry and international ministry. The tangible benefit of developing this training center will be the development of coaches to meet the expansion needs of the Urban Eagles youth program in MAI’s Charlotte, Chicago and Los Angeles offices, as well as potential new sites.

        In evaluating the increasing demands of operating a USL Pro franchise in conjunction with the vision of developing a training center in Charlotte, we decided to sell the USL Pro franchise rights and move to the lower cost operating model of the Premier Development League.

  1. If i was garber, and as a matter of a fact what is garber thinking. MLS needs an MLS 2, in order to create history and to grow MLS 1. MLS 1 can do good with 26 to 28 teams and MLS 2 can handle easily 15 to 20. We need to create history, and involve an MLS 2 with all this expansion in NASL and USL.
    It needs to happen, despite all the haters.

    • Agree, MLS 2 would be ideal. Get all the cities that could conceivably be in position to be MLS 1 but havent made the final cut. Ship players up and down. Work out some radical plan where the MLS 2 champ gets an auto CCL bid and they actually have something to strive for on a global level…compete against MLS and MX teams for a trophy and the right to play for a world championship. Matter of time.

  2. What does $2million get you in a stadium? New bleachers? A new paint job and some patched concrete? I guess this is good for Charlotte, but hardly seems like anything to get excited over.

    • From experience, $800,000 got 13,000 seats removed, the concourse and seating bowl of the stadium stripped, pressure washed, re-leveled, re-epoxied, weather proofed (the bowl was made from pre-fab concrete slabs), new bolts on which the fix the seats, and the seats placed back into their original location with a couple hundred seats needing to be partially or fully replaced.

      And that was with some cost over-runs. Depending on the construction of Memorial Stadium, $2 million goes an extremely long way. What I am unsure of is whether that $2 million is part of the $4 million, or in addition to. Either way that kind of money, when used correctly gets a whole lot in a stadium that is already built.

    • Ok, I just looked at some photos. It is basically a glorified high school stadium. Bleacher seats held up with support beams which creates a concourse underneath. Assuming they do not do any structural remodels and are strictly adding a pressbox, busting out a few rows of seats at field level and around the already small seat level concourse, the $4 million should certainly be able to cover those costs.

      What it does is dolls the place up a bit and allows for a few noticeable and necessary renovations without busting the bank. The team succeeds, builds credibility and a fan base and then when they do push for MLS that major $20+ million renovation seems like a deal compared to building from scratch.

    • It gets them a place to play in a great part of town with lots if seats. If memorial doesn’t work out they are likely going to have to play in the unc Charlotte stadium which is nice for college soccer but only holds 4k.

  3. Live about 20 min from Memorial Stadium. Cannot wait for this!. Upgrades are definately needed. The place is crumbling and the pitch way too narrow. Honestly, I am perfectly happy if this team stays in USL Pro . no need for MLS talk now.

  4. I have a brilliant idea let’s shrink the size of a stadium concept we are trying to sell as a MLS venue. Even mediocre attended teams (other than Chivas) are up over 15K now.

  5. The Rapids have a supporters terrace.

    I don’t know if you have been to America but the majority of its residence prefer to sit down when possible. We ain’t no Deutschland Standland.

      • Actually I put it here first and realized I had not replied to the comment I meant to and put it above. Out of respect to the comment process and not doing a straight up cut and paste I added a bit to the amended version above.

        If you want me to not give the non-smart ass version:

        “No an American don’t not want to spend their money to go to a sporting event and stand up the whole game. Colorado has a small terrace section and I would assume most stadiums allow for standing room only tickets if the fire Marshall allows for it. That tends to be how stadiums can sell more tickets than their capacity. I went to a sporting event many years ago once with standing room only tickets and it sucked. Stadiums in this country continue to get more and more luxurious and comfortable for all sports.

        I don’t think standing tickets at MLS or any other soccer matches in this country is a solution to anything.”

  6. Are soccer stadiums allowed to have standing room terraces in MLS / USL / etc. I ask because they are a cost effective way to accommodate fans affordably, can be made safe (as in Germany) and add to the game day environment. Given that stadium costs seem to be a big barrier to growing the sport of soccer, terracing could be part of the solution to the problem.

    • The Rapids have a supporters terrace that looks sort of goofy.

      I don’t know if you have been to America but the majority of its residence prefer to sit down when possible. We ain’t no Deutschland Standland.

      • I am from the USA but don’t live in an MLS city. When I watch the games on TV I see the supporters section mostly standing so I was wondering whether they could design that into the stadium.

      • Colorado’s was not part of the original stadium design. It was added later behind one of the goals. They have information about their terrace on their website. Most MLS supporters section ticket sales and information I have seen as a disclaimer for that sections specifying you may be standing the whole game. They do not make people sit down in those sections as they do in other sections at matches I have been to. The standing is encouraged so I would say that it acts as Standing Terrace. Most stadiums have some sort of dedicated supporters section.

        Chicago Fire Standing Terrace History:

        “along with original club GM Peter Wilt, selected Section 8 at Soldier Field as a designated standing area to encourage the style of fandom traditionally seen globally in soccer, at sporting events worldwide, and in college athletics in America.

        The experiment was an instant success, drawing large numbers on the way to the Fire’s league championship that first season; and established the club and Fire supporters as leaders of the movement in North America.

        The Fire Ultras, originally inhabitants of Section 9 in the opposite South End corner, chose to move into Section 8 in 1999, an event credited as the true beginning of “Section 8″ as it is known now. By mixing the American style of BB1871 with the continental European ultras style of FU98 in a way that could only happen in Chicago sports, a completely new, vibrant, and infectious blend occurred.”

      • I lived in England for a bit and “stands” are a nice way to see a game cheaply (and possibly up close). I used to stand at either the centerline or behind the goal at Craven Cottage before they got promoted and had to put in seats.

        I think there are weather and pointyball reasons, but we also tend to have elevated seating, but I remember Stamford Bridge the front rows are down at field level. Something else worth considering.

      • People will stand to watch Guns n Roses or U2, why not soccer? This might be wandering into “soccer is not quite a religion here yet.” If you are on a family outing, you probably want to sit, but if you just want to be in the park and enjoy it, and will put up with anything to do it cheaply — SOCCER AS RELIGION — you would put up with standing.

      • Soccer has the added advantage that the games plus halftime take less than 2 hrs. I can see how watching a football or baseball game could be very uncomfortable for fans that were forced to stand for the duration.

      • Are you saying that Guns n Roses and U2 are the next MLS expansion teams? I gotta say that Guns has a formidable attack, but U2 holds a serious advantage in midfield.

    • AlexH,

      Almost everyone stands for the games in Seattle. I took my daughter and she asked if we were going to stand the whole game, I said yes.

      She asks, “why do they have seats ?”

      Pretty funny.
      I of course said “for the fatball fans”


Leave a Comment