by Julie Tisdale
City & County Policy Analyst
A month ago, the Carolina Railhawks announced that they were changing their name to North Carolina F.C. and making a bid to join MLS.
Last week, Bruton Smith, who owns the Charlotte Motor Speedway, announced that he’s also eyeing a MLS expansion team for Charlotte.
And then today, it was announced that the Western New York Flash, who won the National Women’s Soccer League championship last year, would be moving to North Carolina in April to become the North Carolina Courage.
Is it just me, or is this rather a lot of high level soccer all of a sudden? What’s driving this? And more importantly, how who will be paying for it?
I’ve written in the past about publicly financed ballparks, why they’re a bad deal for taxpayers, and how they can even end up diverting money from things like schools. So when I hear about two groups looking to bring MLS franchises to North Carolina, I wonder who’s going to pay for the 20,000 seat stadium that any potential MLS franchise will need. I wonder who will be footing the $150 million expansion fee (paid by the new team to the league for the privilege of joining). And I wonder if we really have the fan base to support a MLS team and a NWSL team.
Don’t get me wrong. I love sports. I like the idea of lots of high level soccer competition in the area. But I’d urge both North Carolina lawmakers and local governments to resist the urge to spend taxpayer money on the projects. New professional sports franchises are exciting, but if they’re really such great investments, then private investors can pay the fees and build the stadiums. That’s not a good use of taxpayers’ money.