The owners of the minor-league baseball Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League are negotiating to add a United Soccer League (USL) team to the mix at Aces Ballpark for 2017 at the earliest.
Eric Edelstein, Aces president who has pro soccer experience during an earlier stint with Rich Baseball, confirmed talked are underway but nothing was finalized. From the Reno Gazette-Journal:
Edelstein said the Aces would continue to be a priority and that Simon would not pursue a soccer franchise if it interfered with baseball.
“We’re still a baseball stadium first,” Edelstein said. “We need to do right by the Diamondbacks (the Aces’ major-league parent club and baseball. If this were to be a huge detriment to the field surface, we wouldn’t have done it. But the early returns from the other teams show it is not a detriment to baseball.”
Edelstein said two other stadiums — in Louisville, Ky., and Tulsa, Okla. — are shared by baseball and soccer teams.
Louisville, of course, hosts the former Orlando USL franchise.
There are some issues to combining baseball and soccer. First, the grandstand arrangement used for a baseball game isn’t perfect for soccer, as one end will need to be played on the dirt infield and the pitching mound will need to be removed. Second, there’s the issue of wear and tear on a grass turf.
Finally, there’s the cost issue. On the one hand, pro soccer can be used to fill empty weekends on the baseball schedule, and the infrastructure to run a team (sales, concessions, facility) are already in place, so adding a team is a matter of incremental costs. On the other hand, adding a USL team will will require investment: between $500,000 and $750,000 for the USL franchise, along with a $2 million or so operating budget. That requires investment and a commitment to cash flow.
There are currently 24 USL teams, some run by an MLS team (Portland Timbers 2, Real Monarchs SLC) and other run independently (Sacramento Republic, Austin Aztex). A Rio Grande Valley (Texas) team has already been announced for 2016.
Image courtesy Wilmington Hammerheads.