Dayton could help FC Cincinnati’s bid to join Major League Soccer

Published: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 8:00 PM

Things to know about FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati, the second-year United Soccer League team, has a secret weapon it hopes will help it elevate to the country’s top professional rung, Major League Soccer: Dayton.

FC Cincinnati has set attendance records for the USL and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, in which it already upset two MLS teams, the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire. An esteemed arena architect also has created plans for an eye-catching stadium.

But its weakest asset in the quest to join MLS is Cincinnati’s market size, team General Manager Jeff Berding recently told team season-ticket holders.

Major League Soccer, which has 22 teams and is considering adding others from among 12 suitors now under consideration, wants cities that can help grow the league’s base of fans. 

RELATED: 5 things to know about FC Cincinnati’s stunning U.S. Open Cup upset

“This is the one where we struggle a little bit, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Berding said. “When you look at the TV markets, here’s Cincinnati, about the 36th Nielsen market in the United States …. The 11 other cities in MLS expansion are all bigger media markets.

“We try to make the point: Combine (us) with Dayton — because between West Chester and Springboro there’s not a whole lot left — and that makes us the 21st market. Hey, if Cleveland can claim Akron/Canton, we can claim Dayton, right?”

There is some precedent in sports for such a credit: The National Football League gives the Bengals a credit for Dayton as a secondary television market.

Nielsen ranks Cincinnati the 36th largest television market, with 863,800 TV homes and 0.75 percent of the country’s population. Dayton is 64th, with 466,040 and 0.4 percent of the nation.

Combined, they would be 1.32 million television homes, ranking 21st, behind Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, Calif., and ahead of St. Louis. Cleveland-Akron-Canton is 19th, with nearly 1.5 million TV homes.

RELATED: A combined Cincinnati-Dayton metropolitan area comes closer to reality

‘A lot of loyalty to Cincinnati’

Phil Parker, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, agrees with crediting Dayton as part of Cincinnati’s market. A merger of Cincinnati’s metropolitan area with Dayton’s “adds almost another 50 percent of what that Cincinnati market is,” he said.

The Cincinnati and Dayton areas have been growing toward each other in recent years, with Butler and Warren counties — particularly West Chester and Liberty townships — at the epicenter.

According to Journal-News research of U.S. Census data, Butler County has seen its population rocket from 426 people per square mile in 1960 to 808 last year. In Warren County, people per square mile ballooned from from 163 in 1960 to 565 last year.

That compares to 1,986 per square mile in Hamilton County and 1,150.6 in Montgomery County last year.

A decision on a merged metropolitan area would be made by the federal government. Major League Soccer would decide whether to credit Dayton’s television market to FC Cincinnati.

Parker said he thinks MLS should credit Dayton’s TV market to FC Cincinnati.

“I talk to the Reds quite often, and they say that beyond Cincinnati, their next market is Dayton. And that’s even with a minor-league baseball team (Reds’ affiliate Dayton Dragons),” Parker said.

“We don’t have significant professional sports up here in the Dayton area, so people do follow Cincinnati, there’s a lot of loyalty to Cincinnati,” he said.

RELATED: Hamilton’s future sports center hopes to partner with FC Cincinnati

Joe Hinson, president and CEO of the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance, said he hasn’t heard anything from the federal government about a merged metropolitan area.

“I’ve heard a lot of interest here locally, and regionally,” he said.

In terms of metropolitan areas by population, a combined Cincinnati-Dayton cluster “is actually 18th largest market” by total population, as opposed to TV market size, Hinson said, “right behind San Diego.”

Dramatic growth brings momentum

Parker called the growth along the I-75 corridor between Dayton and Cincinnati “dramatic.” And, he added, “I think there’s a lot of momentum. I think you’re going to see not only commercial activity along the I-75 corridor, but the residential market looking at that next layer past the commercial side of both sides of I-75.”

“I can’t tell you how many examples that I know personally of a two-adult home, adults that live, work and play in our area, that one drives to Cincinnati to work, and one drives to the Dayton area, and they live somewhere between Centerville and Mason,” Parker said.

Parker said a “super, mega MSA (metropolitan statistical area)” would “take us in a whole new realm of marketplace.”

The biggest advantage of such a metroplex would be jobs, Parker said. A larger metropolitan area “could possibly be an attractor to more business, and business growth, because there’s more population to draw from, from a workplace standpoint, and that actually creates more of a synergy, and more of a driver for people that might want to come to the Midwest.”

On the other hand, in a merged metropolitan area, the formerly separate areas could have trouble working together to share resources, infrastructure and attention, Parker noted.

Build a brand up I-75 corridor

FC Cincinnati “has an opportunity to build their brand up the I-75 corridor,” Hinson said. “I think it helps all of us. If you look at the West Chester/Liberty area, I think we have more children — over 6,000 — that play soccer every year, more than anywhere in southwestern Ohio, in any particular area.”

“I think it bodes well for our area, and FC Cincinnati, looking at this area as a key component in helping build its brand for Major League Soccer” he said. And having a popular professional soccer team in the area helps attract and keep young people and families in the region, he added.

“You look at the future residents of our area, they’re looking for location, accessibility, amenities,” Hinson said.

Parker said he believes Daytonians would follow a Cincinnati-based MLS team, just as they do the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals.

There is momentum toward a merged metropolitan area.

“As we look at the growth of the area here, we really didn’t see any activity between Cincinnati and Dayton until Union Centre Boulevard opened up 20 years ago,” Hinson said. “Once that opened, it opened up 3,000 acres of commercial development, and it really opened up the key area of growth between I-275 and I-675.”

That area of easy-to-develop greenspace between those two highways has opened up Liberty Township and other areas along what he calls “the growth corridor.”

“This metropolitan area, geographically, it’s very tied together, so you’re right to pull in a much larger audience,” said Hamilton Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson, who is helping developers of the proposed Spooky Nook at Champion Mill mega indoor facility, where FC Cincinnati may train. “I don’t see it as being a small market at all.”

Cincy, Dayton already merged in ‘real world’

Butler County Economic Development Director David Fehr said: “In my mind, really the area’s already are kind-of acting like that. We have a lot of our employers in Butler County choose this location because they can draw employees from the Dayton area and the Cincinnati area to work here in Butler County.”

“Even if it’s not designated as such,” Fehr continued, “I think in the real world, it’s kind of acting that way already.”

A high-level soccer team can help the region’s growth.

“This is a major-league sports town,” Berding said during his stadium-unveiling presentation. “Having the Reds and the Bengals, it’s part of what puts us on the map. It helps us out-kick our coverage, right? Punch above our weight class. There’s a lot of fine communities, fine cities in this region. You think of Dayton, and you think of Toledo, and Lexington and Louisville. But the fact that this is a big-league sports town gives us prominence, nationally and internationally, beyond our relatively smaller size.”

FC Cincinnati is competing against 11 other cities to join the league. But Berding says the club is mainly competing against teams in the eastern part of the country – Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh and Tampa.

In MLS, Berding said Cincinnati would join “innovation-economy cities” like Portland, Seattle, San Jose, Orlando and Atlanta in the MLS, whose games are broadcast in 170 countries.

BY THE NUMBERS

$150 million: The price for expansion teams to join Major League Soccer

12: Number of cities seeking to join the league

21: Cincinnati-Dayton TV market’s ranking nationally, if combined

UPDATE: Columbus Crew SC owner explains interest in moving to Austin

Published: Tuesday, October 17, 2017 @ 12:12 AM
Updated: Tuesday, October 17, 2017 @ 2:53 PM

The Major League Soccer team in Columbus, Ohio, announced it is exploring a move to Austin, along with continuing to pursue a possible stadium solution in Columbus.

The Major League Soccer team in Columbus, Ohio, announced Tuesday morning it is exploring a move to Austin, along with continuing to pursue a new stadium in Columbus.

“Despite our investments and efforts, the current course is not sustainable,” Anthony Precourt, chief executive officer of Precourt Sports Ventures and chairman of Columbus Crew SC, said in a statement Tuesday morning. “This club has ambition to be a standard bearer in MLS, therefore we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options.

“This includes a possible move to Austin, which is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports franchise,” the statement said. “Soccer is the world’s game, and with Austin’s growing presence as an international city, combined with its strong multicultural foundation, MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit.”

A relocation to Austin is not possible without a stadium plan, the Crew owner told the American-Statesman Tuesday morning.

“It would be a privately financed stadium in Austin, and I really think it can get done,” Precourt said. “We are not asking for tax dollars. We are just initiating the process. A huge key to this is finding the right site. That will take time.”

Precourt said he’ll need financial help bringing the team here.

“We will look for local investors in Austin,” he said. “We will look for stragic partnerships with people or groups who can get this done.”

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber supports the Crew SC’s possible move to Austin.

“As attendance League-wide continues to grow on a record-setting pace, and markets across the country seek to join MLS, Columbus’ situation is particularly concerning,” Garber said. “Despite PSV’s significant investments and improvements on and off the field, Columbus Crew SC is near the bottom of the League in all business metrics and the Club’s stadium is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS.

“The League is very reluctant to allow teams to relocate, but based on these factors, we support PSV’s efforts to explore options outside of Columbus, including Austin, provided they find a suitable stadium location.”

Columbus Crew SC was the first charter granted in Major League Soccer in 1996. Crew officials have recognized its growing disparity in attendance and corporate support compared with its MLS peers and other midsize markets, such as Kansas City, Orlando, Portland and Salt Lake City.

Columbus wants a downtown stadium, whether it is in the capital city of Ohio or Texas.

Precourt, a Northern Californian with few ties to the Ohio capital, has visited Austin several times in recent years and been in conversation with Austin leaders, multiple sources told the American-Statesman. SI.com’s Grant Wahl was the first to report the intention late Monday.

“He wants to move to Austin,” a Columbus business leader said. “He may mention Cincinnati and Phoenix, but it’s Austin he really wants.”

An MLS source agreed that while Austin is being used for leverage, the first option is to move to Austin.

University of Texas athletic director Mike Perrin indicated his school would be interested in such an arrangement. Myers Stadium has a capacity of 20,000 — in the ballpark for MLS — and alcohol sales are allowed.

“We are aware of MLS interest in Austin and have no opposition to exploring possible collaborative opportunities,” Perrin told the Statesman.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler shot down reports by other news outlets that there would be bond elections coming for a new stadium.

“I don’t know what it would be you would be putting on a ballot,” he told the Statesman. “You could put something on a ballot if there was going to be a bond election to finance a stadium, but nothing like that is in the works.”

Adler told KVUE that Austin would make an excellent MLS market.

“Exciting news because Major League Soccer would be a huge success in Austin, and the Crew would find tons of fan support,” he said. “There is a lot of benefit that being in Austin would give a team, too, though not public funding of a stadium.”

Earlier this year, Major League Soccer registered “Austin FC” and “Austin Athletic” as trademarks. MLS executive vice president Dan Courtemanche told the Statesman that Austin would not be considered for one of the four remaining expansion slots but did not respond to a question about relocation.

An Austin soccer source said he was told MLS Commissioner Don Garber sent a letter to owners explaining the potential Columbus move. Garber has previously praised Austin as having the right vibe and demographics for his league.

The Crew had an affiliation with the Austin Aztex of the United Soccer League for one year, 2015, before the Aztex were suspended amid a sea of debt. The Aztex reported an average home attendance of 3,227 playing in high school football stadiums.

The Crew relocation is one of two efforts to bring professional soccer back to Austin after the Aztex were suspended. Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein announced this summer he is bringing USL pro soccer back to Austin in 2019, and they will play in a new 5,000-seat stadium at the race track.

Epstein is not involved with Precourt’s group and said he will take a wait-and-see approach about the Crew’s possible move to Austin.

Columbus is near the bottom of MLS in attendance and franchise worth. Columbus’ home average of 15,439 fans ranks 20th of 22 teams, ahead of only Colorado and Dallas. The Crew SC is worth $123 million, according to Forbes Magazine, ranking 21st.

Mapfre Stadium, capacity 22,555, is the original purpose-built stadium in MLS and also the oldest, opening in 1999, and is showing signs of wear and tear.

The timing of the reports is curious. The Crew, the 2008 MLS Cup champions, qualified for the postseason as the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed. The playoff start next week.

“Our interest in Austin is very sincere,” Precourt said. “(I) have a longstanding affinity for it.”

Staff writers Kirk Bohls and Katie Hall contributed to this story.

Dynamo battles to draw at home

Published: Friday, June 16, 2017 @ 11:03 PM

Home field continues to be a help for the Dayton Dynamo, although not quite as much Friday night . The local kickers settle for a scoreless draw against Rochester on a hot, steamy night on the turf at CJ’s Roger Glass stadium.

Dayton dominated play all night long against the visitors from New York. The Dynamo controlled the ball 66% of the game and had numerous chances to score.

Dayton came up empty on 14 corner kicks on the night and they were even turned away on a penalty kick. Chris Dupont’s went for the left corner, but the PK bounced off the goal post in what was the best chance the home team had to score.

Despite the 0-0 draw, the Dynamo remains unbeaten at home and on top of their division in the National Premeir Soccer League with 17 points.

Dayton is back home next Thursday night in a “friendly” against the Columbus Crew U23 team. That match kicks off at 7pm at Roger Glass stadium.

WATCH: Soccer player accidentally thanks wife and girlfriend in live interview

Published: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 @ 2:06 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 @ 1:41 PM

A ball is seen on the pitch prior to a soccer game.
BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images
A ball is seen on the pitch prior to a soccer game.(BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images)

An African soccer player has some explaining to do after he thanked his wife and girlfriend in a post-match interview on Friday.

>> Read more trending news 

South African Premier League player Mohammed Anas had just been awarded the Man of the Match title when he made the blunder on live television.

“I appreciate my fans also,” the Ghanaian striker said during the interview. “My wife and my girlfriend, I mean, yeah, sorry to say. I’m so sorry -- my wife, I love you so much.”

Anas’ team, the South African Free State Stars, had just played Ajax Cape Town, another South African team.

Anas later said that he refers to his daughter as his girlfriend. 

“My family knows that I call my daughter my girlfriend. That's what I was talking about. I don't have a girlfriend,” he said.

Anas said he’s not worried about upsetting his wife of seven years because she knows he is loyal. 

“I love her so much. She's given me two beautiful children. She is fine. She knows what kind of man I am, so I am not worried,” he told the BBC.

Brianna Chambers contributed to this report.

 

Soccer stars prevail against team of 30 8-year-olds

Published: Saturday, September 17, 2016 @ 12:48 AM
Updated: Saturday, September 17, 2016 @ 12:48 AM

Soccer stars Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane needed a late goal to edge a team of 30 8-year-olds as part of the LA Galaxy’s “Ridiculous Soccer Challenge.”

>> Read more trending stories 

Sky Sports reported that the 8-year-olds lined up in a 1-10-10-9 formation, packing the defense to crowd the two 36-year-old Galaxy players. 

Keane scored twice, as the two men used their height advantage and a long-ball approach to attack the goal. Keane used some fancy footwork to deprive the youngsters of an upset draw.