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Volume 21 No. 48
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Phoenix Rising envisions new stadium worthy of MLS move

Phoenix is the largest U.S. market without a Major League Soccer team. Phoenix Rising FC wants to help the market lose that designation.

The USL club now plays in a 6,200-seat stadium in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. It’s looking at sites for a new privately financed stadium with the goal of winning an MLS expansion slot.

Photo: populous

Architecture firms Populous and Gould Evans have designed a 21,000-seat venue and the team hopes to have a site selected as soon as a couple of months. Team COO Bobby Dulle said the Rising is committed to private financing to sidestep the political fights facing other pro franchises in the market.

As for site options, Dulle said the team could try to build the new stadium on Salt River land, which would require working out a deal with the tribe. He said the Rising could play at a modernized Sun Devil Stadium while a stadium is being built.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Chucri mentioned downtown Phoenix as a potential site for a soccer stadium as a long-term replacement if the Diamondbacks decided to leave Chase Field.

Just last week MLS announced Cincinnati as an expansion franchise, starting in 2019. Earlier, the league awarded expansion spots to Nashville and Miami, with each expected to join the league in 2020. Phoenix is one of 11 cities in the running to become the league’s 27th and 28th teams, at a date yet to be determined.

Beyond the stadium plans, the Rising has beefed up its ownership to make its MLS bid more attractive. Chinese hotelier Alex Zheng, who owns part of soccer club OGC Nice in France, joined the ownership group.

That adds more prowess to a group that already includes a number of prominent local businessmen led by Kona Grill CEO Berke Bakay, advertising executive Tim Riester and commercial real estate executive Mark Detmer. Atlanta Braves pitcher Brandon McCarthy and Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz also own parts of the team.