Football is returning to Wilmington, bringing food, shelter and entertainment with it

USL near Wilmington can use Wilmington Hammerheads’ old pitch at Legion Stadium while their “outdoor event center” is under construction. (Courtesy of CFCC Athletics.)

WILMINGTON – Professional football will return to Wilmington, providing itchy fans with a much-sought-after return home. And this is just the beginning of the restoration of the sport planned by the organizers.

The United Football League has granted exclusive rights to the USL to Wilmington. The group creates a team of USL League One, which will start playing in 2024.

Leading investor Scott Sullivan of Cameron Management is joined by UNC Chapel Hill practice professor Chris Mumford, former Wilmington Hammerhead midfielder and North Carolina FC coach Dewan Bader as organizers of the group.

Mumford said that Wilmington’s support for his former football team Wilmington Hammerheads and his youth, along with the growing popularity of football in the growing region, makes the city ripe for a new team.

“The stars are in order for Wilmingon right now,” said Mumford. “We had to move here five years ago.”

The Hummerheads had 20 years of experience as a professional football team in Wilmington, competing in the USL. The team relegated to the Premier League in the fall of 2016 and played its last game in 2017 before breaking up.

Mumford, a former footballer at UNC Chapel Hill, and both of his partners are in line with the concept of “do good, do good”. This vision extends far beyond the realm of football.

The band doesn’t just open a regular stadium; they plan to build an open public event center. They will not play permanently on the old Hammerheads pitch at Legion Stadium, but may use it while the event center is in operation. According to Mumford, the stadium is not equipped to meet their needs.

The community-oriented vision includes artistic spaces, restaurants, large retail outlets, health systems and even housing. Mumford said they needed a minimum of 40 to 60 acres of land to drill the ground at the event center. The typical football stadium has a maximum area of ​​2 acres.

“We want to make it comfortable for our fans to get to,” Mumford said.

They mean one place, but said it was too early to share details.

The plans are focused on football, but will also provide services to support the community around it.

“It’s not about transactions. It’s about a relationship, “Mumford said. “You don’t get into the football business from the minor leagues to make a lot of money.”

While many ideas are in the process of brainstorming, Mumford pointed to two must-haves: a dining room and a beer garden. Both places will be publicly accessible and open all year round. Mumford said these spaces will be an opportunity for local restaurateurs to build their business and the community to interact with the space, even if they are not football fans.

The organizers also want to lift the spirits of local musicians and artists by providing galleries and outdoor venues. Mumford’s goal is to include murals in the center, each of which is painted on canvas so that it can be transported to other parts of the city. He hopes to collaborate with UNCW and even with external exhibitors, such as the immersive Van Gogh experience now on display at Raleigh.

As a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Chapel Hill, Mumford said the focus will be on providing the infrastructure for the success of low-resource entrepreneurs.

The group’s vision is at the intersection of sports, entertainment and wellness, he explained. The latter will be satisfied by creating housing communities and providing space for health systems.

“People like to live near stadiums with the noise of restaurants and entertainment,” Mumford said.

After leaving football after college, Mumford worked on Wall Street and lived in Asia for 12 years. Through his work, he said he fell in love with startups. He was brought back to the world of football through his children, and it was at their many games that he and Duke football coach John Kerr decided to start Accelerator School in Morrisville six years ago, combining football training with academia.

USL to Wilmington plans to hold listening sessions this fall to hear the wishes of the community before planning decisions.

Many additions to convenience and creative solutions, including the team name and logo, will be determined based on these sessions.

“We can look people in the eye and say we’ve listened to what people have to say,” Mumford said.

Information on the sessions can be found on the USL to Wilmington website.


Contact journalist Alexandria Sands at [email protected]

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