|MLS commissioner: Stadium location an asset to Charlotte FC|
|Don Garber a fan of Center City facility|
|Published Monday, April 12, 2021 8:20 pm|
|PHOTO | MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER|
|MLS Commissioner Don Garber believes Bank of America Stadium's location will be a key ingredient in Charlotte FC's success when the team debuts next year.|
MLS kicks off its 26th season this weekend, but its next expansion franchise – Charlotte FC – debuts in 2022 at a 74,867-seat stadium that opened in 1996 to house an NFL team. While the club is making mandatory soccer-specific updates such as a supporter’s section in the east end zone, players’ tunnel suites and additional broadcast positions, its location is the priority for MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who is convinced the location it’ll help drive the club’s success.
Garber also said the club has 30,000 season ticket deposits. Charlotte FC president Nick Kelly, who started on Feb. 1, has made deposit conversion a priority, hosting seat selection events for ticket holders since they went on sale.
“All of this stuff I think is driven by what we think will make the team the most successful in the local market. [Team owner] David Tepper is a smart guy,” Garber said. “His team is well experienced. They will make the renovations that they need to make as far as their expansion agreement to ensure that stadium will be appropriate for an MLS environment. I’ve got a lot of confidence in he and his team. You can see the evidence by fan support. I am very confident we will be successful there.”
Over half of MLS’s current stadiums are soccer specific, but that does not mean that clubs can’t thrive in shared venues. Atlanta United led the league in attendance in 2019 with an average of 52,510 fans per game. Seattle ranked second with 40,247. Both share their facilities with NFL teams in stadiums housing over 70,000.
“The story in MLS is constantly trying to reevaluate our plan to ensure that we can make the right decisions and make the right investments to move the league forward,” Garber said. “It’s not linear. The league’s original plan had no soccer stadiums as a part of it, and then Lamar Hunt built Columbus Crew’s stadium. Then we went and built some smaller stadiums around the country. Look at what happened in Atlanta, where you have 60,000-70,000 fans attending games. That was really preceded by the incredible excitement in Seattle. The Seattle story was about a joint referendum to get funding for a new downtown stadium. The soccer vote helped push that referendum over the line.”
Garber described it as looking for “drivers of success,” saying location may trump size.
“We continue to evolve our thinking,” he said. “Teams and owners need to make the decisions that will ultimately work for their fans and create the formulas for success that is driven by the need for relevancy, and sometimes relevancy is more about downtown than it is about the size of the stadium. By the way, the two things that work in relevancy in our large football stadiums right now in Seattle and in Atlanta, they are downtown.”
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