North Carolina: A State Poised for Sport Sector Success

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The southeastern state making huge strides in sport sector national prominence

The Background

There is an ongoing discussion today about the future of sport, both domestically and internationally. Seemingly, sport – which has always been dynamic – is experiencing more change with each passing year. What’s more, these changes occur at all levels from amateur to professional. Yet, it is possible that one of the greatest stories at the epicenter of modern sport is flying under the radar: North Carolina.

Secured Funding

Just a year ago, House Bill 347 was signed into law; aside from legalizing mobile sports wagering, the bill importantly designated millions of dollars for assistance in promoting major events, as well as providing expanded resources for teams at the youth and college levels (Side note: More on the hot topic of state-level event funding can be learned by downloading The Stoll Report on State-Level Funding, chock-full of the latest information from around the country and published by Cimarron).

Population Boom

Population behemoths California, Texas, and Florida get plenty of attention when it comes to sport, and deservedly so. While comparing the Tar Heel State to these counterparts is truly apples and oranges due to their sheer number of cities with high population densities, it should be noted that North Carolina welcomed nearly 366,000 new residents to the state in 2023. That’s over 1,000 new North Carolinians daily, placing North Carolina squarely in the midst of a population boom. With nearly 11 million residents in 2024, alongside a whopping growth rate of 3.8% since 2020, projections indicate the state population will grow to 12 million by 2030 and 14 million by 2050. In a time when a number of states are losing population, North Carolina is solidly on the list of the fastest growing states.

This might just be because North Carolina is a state that can claim it has something for everyone. Its natural attractions are vast, with beaches, islands, woodlands, rivers, lakes, mountains and more for outdoor enthusiasts. The state is also home to three combined statistical areas with at least 1.6 million residents apiece – affectionately referred to as Metrolina, The Triangle, and The Triad. The state truly boasts a diversity of assets appealing to many organizations and audiences in the sport sector.

Facility and Event Resume

In terms of physical assets, BB&T Soccer Park, WRAL Soccer Park, and the Bryan Multi-Sports Complex anchor the state’s amateur sports facility offerings. With almost too many universities to count, UNC – Chapel Hill, Duke University, North Carolina State, East Carolina, Wake Forest, Appalachian State, UNC – Charlotte, and many more offer nonstop action for fans of major college sports. Not to mention, the Raleigh-Durham-Cary-Chapel Hill area has been awarded the honor of hosting the upcoming 2029 FISU World University Games. Hosted every two years in a different city worldwide, the “Universiade” as it is known attracts over 10,000 student athletes from over 150 countries – with over 300 million viewers watching all over the world. At the professional level, North Carolina continues to have plenty to brag about with its facilities including the Spectrum Center (NBA Charlotte Hornets), Charlotte Motor Speedway (NASCAR), PNC Arena (NHL Carolina Hurricanes), and Bank of America Stadium (NFL Carolina Panthers; MLS Charlotte FC).

Rendering of Bank of America Stadium renovation. Image credit: Carolina Panthers.

Announced in early June 2024, perhaps one of the most exciting events on the horizon for the state is a proposed massive renovation of the aforementioned Bank of America Stadium. With a total stated cost of approximately $1.2 billion over 20 years, Tepper Sports & Entertainment and the City of Charlotte would partner to completely modernize the stadium’s infrastructure, with particular expanded focus on fan and player experience. This renovation would transform the stadium into one that is state-of-the-art and easily one of the top stadiums in the country. As many around the industry are aware, this would also likely result in Charlotte being granted its first ever Super Bowl hosting bid.

Intercollegiate Conference Realignment

With that said, it is plausible that the crowning jewel in the next round of conference realignment will be none other than UNC – Chapel Hill. With a rich academic tradition as one of the top public universities in the United States, coupled with 50 national championships in eight different team sports, one could argue the Tarheels will be the number one target on the board for the top conferences in the land. With the future of the ACC currently on shaky ground concerning conference revenue sharing, expect the frontrunning SEC and Big Ten to each put on a full-court press in pursuit of UNC – Chapel Hill to join their mighty conferences.

The Bottom Line

To put it mildly, the future is bright for the state, and it is easy to see that North Carolina’s 2024 indicators point toward growth ahead for the sport sector – and by extension, the robust tourism economy that will accompany these tentpole moments.

Note: This article was unsolicited by the state of North Carolina. The Cimarron Global Solutions team has objectively identified and reported here on a series of trends producing what it believes are strong tailwinds for North Carolina’s position in the sport and tourism industry.

Want More In-Depth Analysis?

At Cimarron Global Solutions, we love this stuff! To discover next-level data, expert analysis, and actionable insights about regarding your destination or state’s competitive positioning and metrics for future success in the sport and tourism industry, check out Cimarron Global Solutions or contact us today.

Zack's Picture

Zack Vosen, PhD

lead analyst
Assistant Professor, Mississippi college

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