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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Local ownership announced strides Monday morning towards locking in the necessary investments to bring a pro soccer team to Louisville.
Architect Wayne Estopinal has been working to bring a USL-Pro team to town in an agreement with the United Soccer Leagues and the future Major League Soccer team Orlando City.
In an event at Mockingbird Valley Soccer Club Monday morning, the ownership group discussed plans for the team and unveiled new projections for how the team would occupy Louisville Slugger Field. The city has pledged support to for the team and Estopinal says "very achievable attendance thresholds" can earn the USL team support for a soccer specific stadium.
"If people in Louisville are interested, we need to get this done right away," Estopinal said. The agreements have been written, but he says the missing piece is the final investments needed to sign them.
Estopinal is a minority owner in the top-tier bound Orlando City Soccer Club, whose MLS expansion is set for next season. He has been working over the past several months, and even years, to bring the old Orlando City USL team to Louisville.
The USL-Pro league is considered the third-tier league, behind the MLS and the NASL (North American Soccer League). The USL-Pro team in Louisville would work as a minor-league affiliate to the Orlando City MLS team, which would be the first such affiliation the MLS would see.
In January, Orlando City Owners Phil Rawlins and John Bonner visited Louisville to meet with city officials and potential owners, while a supporters' group threw them a party at Molly Malone's to show there is plenty of interest.
The move has been approved by the USL and Orlando City ownership has been impressed by what they've seen in Louisville. Orlando City has set an agreement with the potential ownership group to become a minority owner in the club, with a 10 percent share. But as investments talks slowed following the meetings, Estopinal met with the Louisville Coopers about offering the fans a share of the ownership.
At the event Monday morning, Estopinal unveiled branding graphics and investment materials that have been sent to potential investors as well as new plans for the potential soccer team's set up at Louisville Slugger Field. The Bats organization has set agreements over the arrangement of the field, the pitcher's mound and shared usage.
Estopinal says he is looking for youthful ownership and he believes he has found it in former investment banker Justin Brown. Brown recently moved back to Louisville and believes the team would invigorate the economy.
"We need to attract and retain young talent and this is just one part of that," Brown said at the meeting. "This is one more brush stroke in the painting that is the economy of Louisville."
According to Wayne Estopinal, the scope of investors has widened and well known soccer people are being discussed as potential partners for the team.
Meanwhile, the Coopers have made an aggressive push for membership and held several events to rally soccer fans around the idea of supporting the team. A survey of the Coopers' members indicated their desire for a vibrant downtown stadium. The Coopers have signed roughly 1,500 pledges to buy season tickets already.
With the potential for a team in Louisville, Estopinal is not looking to get content. He says if a team could get going now, the goal would be to put Louisville in the running for a 2020 MLS expansion. The team would start play in 2015.
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