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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Hockey, soccer big news for North Carolina

Rajee headshot

Opinion writer Rajee Ganesan poses for a portrait. Photo courtesy of Rajee Ganesan.

When someone mentions sports in North Carolina, many people immediately think of the Carolina Panthers, or the infamous UNC and Duke basketball rivalry. 

Most don’t immediately think of UNC’s incredible field hockey team that’s gone undefeated for two consecutive seasons, or our nationally competitive professional hockey team just down the road from N.C. State. However, that’s something that’s quickly changing with the development of North Carolina’s sports scene.

Earlier this month, the National Hockey League announced that the Carolina Hurricanes would be hosting its first outdoor game next year. This movement is part of the league’s Stadium Series, and the game will be held in Carter-Finley (which may be the only time that stadium is full!). 

The arena seats a whopping 57,000 people, and it’s expected to be a massive event, with full attendance and tailgate expected. This game marks the first outdoor hockey game to be hosted in the southeast, and is a huge win for hockey fans and players across the Triangle.

In addition to hockey, Charlotte recently beat out Raleigh to be chosen as a city for expansion for Major League Soccer, and is likely one of the last teams that will be added to the league. The team is owned by David Tepper, who also owns the Carolina Panthers, and is expected to play at the Bank of America Stadium along with the football team. 

In an already quickly-growing city, the soccer team is expected to draw large crowds and fans. Charlotte has been deemed a sports city in North Carolina, hosting not only the Panthers and the Hornets, but now an MLS team, and tourism is expected to rise in concordance with the team beginning play in 2021.

So what does it mean for North Carolina? Well, first of all … money. A Charlotte-based MLS team will spur a huge influx of jobs to the city, in addition to revenue through ticket sales and other events in Charlotte. Tepper believes the addition of an MLS team has huge potential for the community’s economic development, and will help catalyze the transformation of Charlotte as a whole.

Meanwhile, the Stadium Series hockey game is expected to be a sold-out crowd, with fans traveling across the state to experience the first outdoor hockey game in franchise history.

Apart from the money, North Carolina is establishing itself as a name in sports aside from the usual football and basketball history. The influence of hockey and soccer opens up a huge avenue for sporting events in the state, putting North Carolina on par with states with major league teams in multiple sports, such as California and New York. 

It’s an exciting time for sports fans across the state, and it’s something to definitely keep an eye out for as plans for soccer and hockey solidify over the next few months.

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