Steve Malik is nothing if not blunt.
Take, for example, his answer to a question about whether he's thinking of moving his newly acquired soccer franchise, the Carolina RailHawks, out of WakeMed Soccer Park, the Cary stadium the team has called home since its inception, maybe to downtown Raleigh or somewhere else in the Triangle. Most sports team owners would be evasive, so as not to offend their hometown. Malik is not.
"Yes," he says.
Such a move is probably inevitable, he adds, given soccer's rising popularity and Raleigh's desire to erect a stadium in its urban core. "I expect Raleigh to have a twenty-five-thousand-seat stadium, expandable to fit forty thousand people," he says. "I'm telling you, it's going to happen."
His enthusiasm is palpable. So is his ambition. Malik's goal is to bring the RailHawks to the "top tier" of professional soccer. Whether that means as a contender for the second-tier North American Soccer League championship or as a Major League Soccer franchise remains to be seen. Given the RailHawks' history, either would be a momentous achievement.
Throughout their ten-year existence, the RailHawks have been plagued by broken promises, scandal, mismanagement, and shady dealings, from one owner who auctioned off team assets on eBay to another who was indicted last year as part of the notorious FIFA scandal. And while Malik, a millionaire who bought the team in October, has pumped much-needed money into the team and its facility, it's unclear whether that will boost the RailHawks' lackluster average attendance, which hasn't exceeded five thousand since 2007.
In other words, there's a massive chasm between where the RailHawks are now and where they'd like to end up.
And yet, Malik professes optimism.
"We're spending millions and millions of dollars ahead of the curve," he says. "I'm doing it because, over a period of time, I'll recoup that."
The question is, however, whether that optimism is tethered to reality—and whether Steve Malik, through deep pockets and sheer force of will, can make the RailHawks a premier Triangle institution.