Ever since the Wilmington Hammerheads played their final game of the 2016 USL season, pro football fans have been hoping they’ll return to Legion Stadium.
There was a season in the USL Premier Development League in 2017 that involved college players, but nothing since.
However, that could change in two years.
The United Soccer League announced in a press release on Friday evening that a group has won the exclusive right to negotiate for the city to have a team in time for the 2024 USL League One season.
It’s very early in the process, but even the possibility drew a positive reaction on social media on Friday night. Here’s what was said, and where there might be some early questions.
Who is involved in this ownership group?
According to the press release, Scott Sullivan, the co-founder of locally run Cameron Management, is the lead investor.
Chris Mumford, professor at UNC-Chapel Hilland former professional player Dewan Bader are also part of the group.
“USL is thrilled to be working with Scott, Chris, Dewan and the entire Wilmington community on this transformational project,” USL Chief Operating Officer Justin Papadakis said in the press release. “USL to Wilmington’s strengths include local ownership, a collaborative mindset and expertise in real estate, business and football – all of which are a great recipe for success.
Where will the team play?
The automatic assumption would have been Legion Stadium, but the press release says the group wants to build a football-specific stadium, along with other sports grounds and a mixed-use development that would include a food hall concept.
“We think it’s extremely important to have what we call an outdoor community center – anchored by a football-specific stadium – that provides a mix of wellness, entertainment and sports in a neighborhood,” Mumford said in the press release.
Where they would put this is unknown. But with Cameron’s backing, finding the land might not be as difficult as it seems, even in a Wilmington market that’s tight on space.
What league would it be?
USL League One is the third tier of professional soccer in the United States and Canada, after Major League Soccer and the USL Championship.
The division has 11 teams, with two expansion teams scheduled for 2023. Former rivals Richmond Kickers and Charlotte Independence are part of the league. Nearly half of the teams are located within a 6-hour drive of Wilmington (Statesboro, GA; Greenville, SC; Raleigh; Richmond; Charlotte).
Can we call them the Hammerheads?
Local fans would definitely love that, right?
The huge local youth football organization takes its name from the club’s former professional ties. It is not known at the moment if a new club could use the name.
Dan Spears is a sportswriter for the Wilmington StarNews and a Southeast regional sportswriter for the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @DanSpears.