Plans were announced on Thursday for Lansing Ignite, a Lansing, MI-based USL League One squad that will begin play in 2019.
Led by Majority Owner Tom Dickson, President Nick Grueser and Vice President and General Manager Jeremy Sampson, the club becomes the only professional outdoor soccer team in Michigan. Ignite will play at Cooley Law School Stadium, the downtown home of baseball’s Lansing Lugnuts (Low A; Midwest League), another club owned by Dickson. The club will compete in USL League One’s (formerly USL Division III) inaugural 2019 season.
“We are very pleased to welcome Lansing Ignite FC to the USL family,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “This is a club whose tremendous ownership group, led by Tom Dickson, is deeply dedicated to growing the sport of soccer and representing its community with pride and authenticity. As one of the founding members of USL League One, the future is very bright for soccer fans across the region.”
The Lansing-East Lansing market boasts a population of over 500,000 and is a center for education and government in the state. The capital of Michigan, Lansing is home to Michigan State University, as well as the headquarters for major companies, including Fortune 500 company Auto-Owners Insurance, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, Delta Dental, Jackson and two major General Motors plants.
“With the Lansing Ignite Football Club, the City of Lansing’s second professional franchise, we’re putting the Capital City on the map in the national sports landscape,” said Dickson. “A little over two decades ago, the nation saw how great of a sports city this is, drawing over a million fans in the Lansing Lugnuts’ first two record-setting seasons and going strong ever since. The soccer fans of Mid-Michigan have shown that there’s a huge appetite for the sport in the region.”
A former Entrepreneur of the Year in Michigan, Dickson has additionally been responsible for the development of more than $150 million worth of new minor league ballparks in Dayton and Eastlake, Ohio, Joliet, Illinois, and Gary, Indiana, and serves as the Chair of Minor League Baseball Enterprises and is on the Board of Directors for Minor League Baseball. Since 2005, Dickson has also served as the Chief Executive Officer of Professional Sports Catering, the fastest growing concessionaire in baseball, operating at over 30 ballparks around the country.
“This is really exciting,” said Dickson. “For the first time in 38 years, we’re bringing a professional outdoor soccer team back to the state of Michigan, and we’re going to turn the Capital City into the capital of soccer.”
Lansing will make major announcements in the upcoming weeks and months, including coaching staff additions, player signings, partnerships and more.
Lansing is joining a slate of 2019 USL League One clubs that includes South Georgia Tormenta FC (Statesboro, Georgia), FC Tucson, Greenville Triumph SC, Madison Pro Soccer, Toronto FC II, Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, Orlando City B, and Richmond Kickers. In addition, the Rochester Rhinos and Penn FC have announced that they are shifting from USL Division II (set to be renamed USL Championship) to USL League One, but neither team is slated to begin League One play until 2020.