Soccer promoters in North Carolina’s two biggest cities have pursued public and private financing in their bids to build stadiums and attract major league clubs, but questions in Raleigh over a proposed stadium built on public land and hits to Charlotte’s public funding plan threaten to draw the dreaded red card.

Mecklenburg County commissioners voted Wednesday to give land its current multipurpose, public stadium sits on to the city of Charlotte. The county won’t pay $43.75 million for the construction of a new, professional facility, as previously expected.

The county agreed originally to help pay a quarter of the cost of building a new facility on its old property. The decision was part of an effort to please league officials hungry for state-of-the-art publicly funded complexes in view of major downtown skylines.

Although the business partnership pushing for a Charlotte stadium will have to restructure its funding model, it’s still in the game.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour voted with the 5-3 majority to withhold funding for the stadium. Ridenhour told Carolina Journal he doesn’t support publicly funded stadiums — for any sport.

An accounting analyst, Ridenhour said he estimates the soccer stadium and businesses borne from the major league presence would have to produce more than $2 billion in sales for the county to get its investment back in property and sales tax revenue.

“Those two revenue streams rarely, if ever, pan out the way they say they will,” the Republican said, referring to promoters of publicly financed stadiums

In Raleigh, North Carolina Football Club owner Steve Malik hopes to jump into the big leagues. His current football club — soccer team — now plays second division matches in a 10,000-seat municipal stadium in Cary.

Malik has proposed building a 22,000-seat stadium near downtown Raleigh, with the ability to expand to 28,000 seats. Like Charlotte, the stadium would be on public property, but it would be privately financed.

Malik told Carolina Journal his bid is uniquely positioned to bring North Carolina its next major league team.

“I don’t think that our bids are similar at all,” Malik said, referring to Charlotte. “I think that we check a lot of boxes that they don’t.”

The stadium would sit on 13 acres, owned by the state government, near the north end of Halifax Mall and within sight of the legislative building. Some government buildings would be razed, and the club probably would pay dearly for use of the land.

Julie Tisdale, local policy analyst for the John Locke Foundation, is concerned about the proposed stadium using public land.

“I think the biggest problem is that it’s special treatment for this one guy,” Tisdale said. “Why are we choosing some particular businesses that we decided we want to be winners, and giving them special support that’s not available across the board?”

Malik described the stadium construction as a major economic development for the state government complex and area at large.

An economic development study by his organization projects the stadium construction and operation would create a net present value of $2.8 billion statewide over 17 years. Annually, the study claims the stadium would provide $262 million in statewide economic activity, $181 million of which would be felt in downtown Raleigh.

The study also projects $5 million in tax revenue to the city of Raleigh each year. The project would support 700 jobs in or near the stadium, and close to 2,000 jobs statewide.

The club priced the stadium at $150 million and the entire facility at $750 million, according to an MLS announcement.

Tisdale is skeptical.

“If you look at those economic impact studies, and look at the return on investment they project, it’s this astronomical number,” she observed. “If that’s really true, then why are any idiots wasting their time with Wall Street, where returns on investment are single digit?”

Tisdale grounds her perspective in the idea that people only spend a certain amount of money on leisure. She thinks much of the projected economic growth may reflect a rearrangement of spending, rather than any new spending.

Malik said soccer wouldn’t be the stadium complex’s only attraction. Built by the local Kane Realty group, the site would include office and retail space, restaurants, housing, and parking. He thinks it can revitalize the north end of downtown Raleigh.

Malik strongly believes major league soccer can find a new home in North Carolina.

“We’re not going to get the NFL [in Raleigh], I don’t think we’re going to get Major League Baseball, and I think we already have enough basketball,” Malik remarked. “With all of the soccer fans moving here, I definitely think it’s the sport of the future.”

Part of Malik’s optimism is based in part on Millennial newcomers to the city.

“I think the wind is at our sails with all of the future demographics,” Malik said. “There are a lot of people who grew up playing the game who may not have 30 years ago. You’re trying to recruit people to RTP from all over the world, and that’s the game they play.”

Tisdale agreed with Malik’s view on the potential for growth in a Triangle soccer culture, noting the storied UNC-Chapel Hill women’s soccer program and popularity of youth leagues.

It’s unclear whether league officials are still considering North Carolina for their newest expansions. Charlotte’s WSOC-TV reported that the MLS commissioner didn’t mention Charlotte or Raleigh when discussing energized expansion cities in a speech this week.

The league will announce the locations of two new teams by year’s end and has plans to settle in two more U.S. or Canadian cities in the near future.