Aces see upside in USL soccer affiliation
The Reno Aces are coming off what President Eric Edelstein calls a “very good season” overall, especially on the business side of the sport. He cites growth in season and group ticket sales, partnerships and community programs and said, “The Aces are doing very well and we’re poised for the future.”
That future took an interesting turn recently when the team announced a partnership with the USL, the United Soccer League, and plans to turn the Aces Stadium into a multi-sports facility.
Starting in 2017, the teams will play concurrently from March to September in the downtown stadium. When the Aces are on the road, soccer will play at home and visa versa. A name for the new team is still pending and fans can go to the website and offer suggestions. According to Edelstein, “We feel like it’s a sport on the rise and that this could be the perfect moment to jump in and give Reno one more great thing to be proud of.”
Jake Edwards is the Australian-born president of the United Soccer League, 24 clubs competing in 24 markets in the U.S. and Canada, “We’re a growing league, the sport itself is in a fantastic place and growing year- over-year and so is the U.S.”
Who cooked up this idea and how did it start? Edelstein said it started with (Aces owner) Herb Simon who’d asked him what he thought about the idea. From there, they embarked on a fact-finding mission to determine what it would entail.
The answers just kept coming back positive.
“Soccer is still a growth sport in the U.S., so we’re under no illusion that it will be as popular as baseball,” said Edelstein.
“It’s going to challenge all of us to be bigger and better and to think bigger. Ultimately, it will bring jobs and more high-quality events to downtown Reno. It brings a diverse audience, somewhat different from baseball and there’s a lot of good that comes with it,” he added.
Edwards sees this as a perfect partnership that will be good for the city, the sport and his growing professional soccer league, “We have a lot of new teams joining the league; we have exciting commercial and media partners; and we’re focused on going into the right strategic markets — partnering the right people and have them bring the right ownership.
“As we evaluate where we want to go and where we want to grow, those are the three key components and we have those here in Reno.”
He added that Reno is a great market for many reasons. “We have an owner here who is committed to the development of this city and to bringing professional soccer here; an executive team with experience and expertise; and a fantastic ballpark in a great part of the city so we’re in really good hands.”
Edwards also sees a lot of synergy between his league and the community, “Reno is an ambitious town, a growing town reinventing itself and that’s a great part of the attraction for us.
“Where we are as a league, we went through a re-branding and re-positioning and we are a very ambitious and aspirational league embarking on a whole host of new and exciting things, looking forward, and Reno is the same.
“It has great history and its own traditions. It’s looking forward now and thinking about new industry and technology and is attracting world-class talent and business. There is a thriving millennial population and all of that is very exciting to us. Plus, there’s a great fan base here already and people playing the game in great numbers.”
The Aces’ Edelstein said the business model is a simple one.
“Herb is the principal owner of the Aces and will be the sole owner of the USL team and we’ll leverage the business we already have.
Edelstein will be president of both teams. “We’ll build onto our staff and team with the idea that we will have two franchises to look over. Some staff will work on both and some will focus on one. We’ll schedule with baseball getting the first priority because of the number of games played, and the USL is perfectly comfortable scheduling soccer home games around that,” he said.
How does he evaluate the economic benefit? “There will be 15 home soccer games which is about 20 percent of the baseball home schedule, so we look at it like it will bring 20 percent increases in staffing, events, revenue and opportunity for Reno residents to come downtown and share in the excitement.”
Aces Ballpark is a $50 million venue that opened in 2009. The facility features 6,500 seats, 22 luxury suites, 84 sports bar patio seats and multiple general admission areas that bring the total capacity to more than 9,000.
What about new jobs? The new soccer team will have a payroll comprising 20 professional players, a general manager and coaches. That’s 23 from the team side, plus 5 to 7 full-time positions and 15 more dates for event staff to work.
“We’re really intent on getting community input as we go through this process with soccer, and that’s part of why we are giving it time. We could have launched for 2016 but didn’t want to rush some of the very important parts of building a team that come from the identity, the name, the logo and the colors,” said Edelstein.
“We want to go slow and make sure everybody is heard and that we’re doing the best thing for everybody, so we’re encouraging lots of feedback. http://www.uslreno2017.com is the website where you can submit a team name and interact. We want to hear from everyone and build this a true community soccer club.”
“We continue to invest; we are doubling-down on Reno. We’re lining up for a long healthy future together.”