Issues in securing a new stadium will likely prompt USL Championship’s Fresno FC to relocate, according to a statement issued by owner Ray Beshoff on Tuesday.
Fresno FC’s status beyond 2019 has been in doubt, because of facility challenges that remain unresolved. The club has played at downtown Fresno’s Chukchansi Park–a Minor League Baseball facility that first opened for the Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) in 2002–since its 2018 launch, but a soccer-specific stadium is reportedly needed to ensure the club’s long-term stability and a solution has not emerged thus far.
It appears that any long-term plan to salvage the franchise will not emerge in Fresno, with Beshoff issuing a statement saying that the Fresno FC’s investment group “will almost certainly be relocating the team.” The statement did not provide a timeline for when a move could take place, nor did it hint at any markets that could be under consideration. However, Beshoff pointed to the political challenges in securing a stadium in Fresno as well as the club’s poor financial situation as factors behind a potential move, while lauding the fan support the team has received over the past two seasons.
The full statement can be read below:
First, and most importantly, I want our supporters to know that that we have done everything possible to keep our club in Fresno. However, as many of our supporters are already aware, it is very difficult – if not impossible – for a club to truly thrive without its own stadium.
Having a home venue is the foundation on which a sustainable professional sports organization is built. It is the epicenter of a club’s strength and support. And from day one we knew that Chukchansi Park could only sustain our club in the short term. The expenses associated with converting a baseball field to be adequate for soccer every home game, as well as the lack of revenue from concessions and parking, was always going to make things difficult for us economically. However, we felt those short-term struggles would be worth it as it would give us the time needed to build our foundation – in the form of a venue that Fresno’s soccer community could call their own.
This was my dream from the day I opened Fresno Mercedes. In bringing soccer to Fresno, I imagined the community would take great pride and unite behind a worthy cause. Most frustratingly, perhaps, the past two years have only furthered that belief. There is most assuredly a viable, thriving market for the world’s number one sport in the Fresno community. However, while the market for a club may exist, the political realities of securing a soccer stadium for our club, coupled with the economic realities that make our current situation untenable is why I now feel obligated and saddened to give you an explanation for why our investor group will almost certainly be relocating the team.
We need a stadium, and time after time, our efforts to secure a soccer-specific home within the confines of Fresno have run into a brick wall. While I’d like to personally apologize to our fans for these failures, I also firmly believe that in hindsight there is little more we could have done as an organization.
As I did when we started this venture, I still believe there is a future for professional soccer in Fresno. I truly believe that if the city became committed to working in tandem on the stadium piece, the foundations for a great team could be laid, and a new owner, with a new team, could be successful. However, it is clear that a solution will not come in time for Fresno FC.
I want to thank our staff, the players and all the fans that have supported us. Also, the players and coaches who have done an amazing job this season, and in years’ past. I am proud of what we accomplished together.
I’m also incredibly proud of those of you who have come to the stadium in support of the club over these past few seasons. We fought to the end, and from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry we could not do better for you. Thank you for your support, always.
The model of shared MiLB-USL facilities is one that has evolved in recent years, and not all situations follow the same blueprint. Some are inherently designed to be more lasting, such as Reno, where the Reno Aces (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and Reno 1868 FC have shared Greater Nevada Field since the USL Championship club began play in 2017. In this case, both teams fall under the same ownership.
In Fresno, Fresno FC and the Grizzlies fall under separate ownership groups and Fresno FC viewed a new stadium as a path to ensuring future stability. Having its own soccer-specific stadium would, in theory at least, help alleviate Fresno FC’s financial situation by giving it greater control over revenues and eliminating costs behind the baseball-to-soccer conversation process. With no solutions emerging in Fresno, however, it appears that the club will have to look elsewhere if it is to continue operations in the future.
Image courtesy Fresno FC.