Lansing Ignite FC is folding after just one USL League One season, as financial issues prove to be an insurmountable challenge for the club.
Following the club’s elimination from the USL League One playoffs, there was speculation about the Ignite’s future. Players and supporters had signaled the club’s demise last week, but it was not until this week–following Saturday’s USL League One final–that the Ignite officially announced that it is ceasing operations and will not return to the circuit next season.
The Ignite began play at the start of Division III USL League One’s inaugural season this spring, staging home matches at downtown Lansing’s Cooley Law School Stadium. The club was backed by owner Tom Dickson, who also owns Cooley Law School Stadium’s Minor League Baseball tenant, the Lansing Lugnuts (Low A; Midwest League).
Going into this season, Dickson and the organization anticipated that there could be financial losses, but the Ignite ultimately encountered more challenges than expected and fell short of its goal of drawing 4,000 fans per game. Dickson says that he and organization explored options to keep the Ignite going, but were unable to find a solution to prevent the team from folding. More from the Lansing State Journal:
“The reality is we had plenty of money set aside in the event we lost considerable money in the first year,” Dickson said. “The losses were way, way more than that. They were just way significant, compared to anything we could have imagined. We did have considerable capital set aside. Believe me. Knowing full well, while we’d like to break even the first year, we may well not. Well, we passed that after about a month and it just went straight downhill from there.”…
“The numbers kind of started at an OK level if they would have grown from there,” Dickson said. “But they didn’t. They kind of went the other way. Two months ago, we started to face the reality that we may not have an option here to keep it going the way it is. Then we looked at some other options: Could we find other partners, find investors?”…
This wasn’t an expense issue, though, Dickson insisted. It was strictly a revenue / crowd-size problem.
“People looked at the business reality,” Dickson said. “No one was raising their hand saying they wanted to come and lose a bunch of money with us.”
Per our USL League One attendance figures, Lansing drew a per-game average of 2,788 fans, a figure that was outpaced by only the second-place Richmond Kickers (3,468) and first-place Forward Madison FC (4,292). Still, that was not enough to get the club to a point where it sustain itself financially for future seasons.
USL League One featured 10 teams during its inaugural season, including Lansing. Expansion clubs backed by Inter Miami CF and New England Revolution, as well as Union Omaha SC, are set to begin play next season, and it seems likely that more details on the 2020 slate will emerge over the coming weeks and months.