Thanks a purchase by owner Bob Funk Jr. and his group of investors, Oklahoma City Energy FC has a site for its proposed new stadium.
Seeking to build a new stadium for his team, Funk and investors have purchased a 37-acre site that housed a Producers Cooperative plant. Located south of Bricktown, the site offers a few advantages, mainly in its proximity to downtown Oklahoma City and that it offers enough room for the group’s proposed development. Along with the stadium, the site would be redeveloped into an entertainment complex that includes housing and retail.
For Funk, the purchase solidifies Oklahoma City’s efforts to attract and MLS team. Funk believes that the Oklahoma City Energy FC’s health is vital to such a bid, and that a new stadium is not only desirable but necessary to bring the MLS to town. More from The Oklahoman:
“We are several years away before we will be in a position to actively pursue a Major League Soccer team,” Funk said. “But it is clear, Oklahoma City’s best opportunity to secure a Major League Soccer team leads through the OKC Energy. The sustained success of the OKC Energy has caught the attention of the league, underscoring the receptivity of the market to professional soccer. When we are in a position to earnestly pursue a Major League Soccer team, we are confident we will have a compelling case for Oklahoma City to present.”
Funk has kept a small circle of city leaders updated on his plans, including Mayor Mick Cornett.
“It’s a natural extension of Bricktown,” Cornett said. “From a real estate standpoint it makes a world of sense to do something special, a preplanned development that takes advantage of the boulevard and all the things going on downtown.”
Both Funk and Cornett say they are looking long term at the city’s growing interest in soccer.
“I would think the city’s involvement would be tied to an MLS franchise,” Cornett said. “We wouldn’t be building it hoping a franchise might come, we would build if a franchise were coming. Bob is doing all the right things. If the MLS continues to expand toward a maxed-out 32-team league, I think Oklahoma City fits into those plans.”
While the stadium is certainly a big component of any MLS bid, it seems that Oklahoma City Energy FC and local officials are biding their time. Funk told The Oklahoman that the stadium might not be the first piece of the development to be put into place and, with numerous cities and existing clubs in the mix for an expansion franchise, Oklahoma City might map out its plan before making a serious run at the MLS. There is also the issue of capacity, as an MLS stadium requires more seats than a USL facility, so that will have to be considered when developing the stadium.
Nonetheless, this move keeps MLS talks going in OKC. Funk and his group are believed to be targeting next spring as a closing date on the property.
Image courtesy OKC Energy FC.