NFL Panthers' Tepper, Glick Making Their Push For MLS Expansion Club
NFL Panthers Owner David Tepper and President Tom Glick will meet with MLS execs later this month to "discuss Tepper's campaign to land an expansion club" in Charlotte, according to Erik Spanberg of the CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL. While the entry fee for MLS' 28th and 29th teams will be $200M each, the fee for the 30th team is "yet to be determined but is almost certain to go up." Two years ago, SMI President & CEO Marcus Smith "led a local effort to bring MLS to Charlotte." But that bid "stalled when local government balked at paying half" of the estimated $175M construction cost for a 20,000-seat MLS stadium "to be built near uptown." However, Tepper's arrival "revived the bid as part of his expanding interest in sports ownership." Glick called expansion a "fluid process." He also acknowledged that Tepper's "desire to bring a club to Charlotte is already well-known" to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the league. Glick said, "We have a great case, a very strong case. ... We're optimistic about the process and we're confident in our candidacy" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/9).
SOCCER CITY: In Charlotte, Peralta & Marks report Relevent Sports Group has "signed a five-year deal with Bank of America Stadium to host professional international soccer matches in Charlotte" through its Int'l Champions Cup tournament. This is Relevent's "first long-term deal with any host city." Relevent also "picked Charlotte to host this year's House of Soccer" fan festival on July 19- 20, leading into an ICC match between EPL club Arsenal and Serie A club ACF Fiorentina on July 20. Including this year's match, Charlotte will have "hosted five ICC matches" since '14. Relevent CEO Daniel Sillman said that these announcements "underscore the support for professional soccer in Charlotte, bolstering the city's bid" for an MLS team. Sillman added that the "difference this year in signing a long-term deal" was the "presence of Glick" and Tepper. Sillman said that Glick "pushed to bring House of Soccer to Charlotte" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/10). Previous House of Soccer events were held in Miami and L.A. in '18, the first year of the festival. Glick said the ICC renewal and House of Soccer festival show "Charlotte is a soccer city," and these deals are "validation of that." Glick also said that it may not be fair to categorize he and Tepper's MLS meeting as a "formal bidding process." However, he added the ICC deals are "momentum" for Charlotte's chance at an MLS team (John Aceti, THE DAILY).
WORK TO BE DONE: In Charlotte, Peralta & Marks note Tepper is "trying to catapult Charlotte to the front" of MLS' expansion line. In order to do so, Tepper must "prove two key points." First, that Bank of America Stadium "can provide a suitable home" for an MLS team, and second that the Charlotte region has an "intense appetite for professional soccer." Panthers COO Mark Hart said, "This is a community that absolutely supports soccer, and soccer can be more successful (here) than probably any other part of the country." Hart: "This is now beyond talk. This is action." MLS "has not announced any timetable" for the selection of its 30th team, and it is "unclear whether MLS would consider Charlotte" for the 28th or 29th positions, which are expected to go to St. Louis and Sacramento. Glick said that a recent fan survey sent to Panthers season-ticket holders shows a Charlotte MLS team could "draw season-ticket sales in the low 30,000s." He added MLS "likes how Bank of America Stadium is set up." Glick also said that league officials have "been in talks with Panthers executives to understand what stadium 'enhancements' could be made to better accommodate an MLS team." Glick said that Tepper has "been down to Atlanta a few times to see Atlanta United matches and consult" with Owner Arthur Blank and President Darren Eales. Charlotte could also "leverage its rivalry with Atlanta" in its bid for an MLS team, which "could be attractive" to the league (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/10).
FOR THE FANS: The CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL's Spanberg noted Relevent COO Aaron Ryan "praised local efforts" for previous ICC matches held at Bank of America Stadium. He said that a "track record of healthy ticket sales prompted the multi-year contract as well as plans to bring" the House of Soccer festival to Charlotte. The festival is "free and will include a mix of arts, culture and soccer." Attendance for past ICC matches in Charlotte "ranged between 54,000 and 69,000" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/9).