Sean McDaniel, president and general manager of the new pro soccer team that is coming to Chattanooga, gave a preview of what’s to come to the Chattanooga Civitan Club at their Friday meeting.
Mr. McDaniel came to Chattanooga from Tampa and played soccer for Covenant College then transitioned to coaching and helped to start the Chattanooga Football Club (CFC) and spent six seasons with it. He described that as “the greatest experience I’ve ever had.” He said that over the past 20-30 years he has seen soccer grow in Chattanooga and is excited that it is now being elevated to the pro level.
The impact that this will have on Chattanooga will be big, he said, because it will bring players, staff and coaches who will all be moving and living here. Bob Martino, the team owner, is a real estate developer from Utah, and he has seen what other people have seen in Chattanooga with outdoor living and he wants to invest in it and plans to put roots here, said Mr. McDaniel. Head Coach Tim Hankinson who was described as a “rock star in soccer,” is also making Chattanooga home.
Pro Soccer is a franchise like the National Hockey League and the National Football League, he told the club members. The standards for a pro team go beyond paying the players, he said, there must be a front office and a stadium to play in. The standards are measured against the size of the city he said. This team will be a part of the United Soccer League that has 40 members and the Chattanooga team will be in the third tier, playing other teams at that level. It will have relationships with major league soccer teams and will participate with their farm teams.
The difference in CFC and pro soccer, he said is that US Soccer dictates what is allowed for a professional team, which are different than the pre-requisites for CFC, an amateur team. Also, the CFC has younger players who are trying to move up the ladder, and who he hopes will progress to pro soccer.
Another difference is that a certain number of games must be guaranteed. He said there will be a “guarantee of 18 matches at the south side of Chattanooga.” “Our hope and desire is to be at Finley Stadium,” he told the Civitans. Progress is being made and he hopes to announce the location in the next two weeks. The number of games being played in Chattanooga will also have the impact of touching a lot of other businesses such as restaurants and hotels, said Mr. McDaniel, in addition to the people who will be moving into the city.
He feels that community involvement is important for this team and the players will be getting out into the community by going to schools and making appearances. An objective will be to interact with kids that have no vision and to give them a path forward that can open doors for those who might not have an opportunity otherwise, he said.
Involvement with the public has already taken place starting with a contest to name the team that has been narrowed to five out of 2,000 submissions. The final choice will be announced this coming Monday. And, a contest is planned to design the mascot. A fun thing that is coming, he said will be a public celebration of the new logo. Other things that will soon be announced include the schedule release which will take place in November. A pre season game will be around the first of February and an exhibition game sometime in mid February.
Recruitment of the players is taking place now since they are now coming off of contracts. He said that only seven international players are allowed on the team according to the United Soccer rules, the rest will be American. For a nine to 10 month contract salaries will start around $12,000 and go up according to skill and experience, plus paying for an apartment.
“We’re about family and community,” said McDaniel, and because the idea is to bring people into the games, he said that ticket prices will be close to what the Lookouts charge, suggesting $6 or $7 dollar and up, based on the experience that a spectator is looking for, he said.
During a question and answer time, McDaniel was asked what his expectations were for pulling support from the Chattahooligans, supporters of the CFC. “Come and see,” he answered.” He said you cannot leave the team that you support, but he said that he could watch others. He grew up in Tampa and he said his heart it with the Tampa Bay team and CFC. How could it not be? And since his move to the new pro team has been controversial, he was asked why the Chattahooligans would be irritated. “A good question – for them,” he replied.