While talk of MLS expansion these days has centered around cities ready to join the league in short order, there’s another city interested in making a case for the long term: Charleston, South Carolina.
The owner of the Charleston Battery said in a recent interview with the team’s supporters group that he hopes one day the team can make the jump from the lower-tier USL to MLS.
“We want to take the Battery as high as we can and we won’t put a limit on the possibilities,” Battery owner Eric Bowman said in the interview. “The long-term goal is to turn Charleston into an MLS city. Obviously that’s a long way off, but we think it’s attainable.”
“There’s talk of MLS expanding to Saint Louis, Sacramento, San Antonio etc. So the jump from USL to MLS is within our reach. If MLS wants to be in a particular market, the league will find a way to make it happen. Our job is to turn Charleston into a market that MLS wants to expand to. If we can leverage the sport’s growing popularity nationally and the dedicated local fan base that’s been here from the start with the improvements we’re making on the field and in the stadium, we’ll get there.”
The Battery, founded in 1993, are, along with the Richmond Kickers of the USL, the oldest continuously operated professional soccer club in the US. Bowman bought the club from founder Tony Bakker this year.
With Bowman’s remarks, Charleston has been added to a growing list of cities in line for a spot in MLS’s expansion plans.
A group backing a St. Louis bid announced their intention to vie for an expansion spot in February. The Sacramento Republic have long made a compelling case, with MLS Commissioner Don Garbervisiting the California state capital again in April. San Antonio bolstered their bid with support from the San Antonio Spurs. Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati has caught attention from MLS with their strong attendance in their debut season with USL this year and Detroit entered the MLS expansion discussion in April with plans for an MLS stadium backed by a high-powered ownership group.
Originally posted on mlssoccer.com by Colin Stephenson.
Single-match tickets to the longest regular-season home schedule in the Charleston Battery’s 23-year history went on sale at 10 a.m. this morning.
Seats are available to 15 USL home dates against 13 other teams in the USL Eastern Conference, spread across the league’s first-ever 30-game schedule.
Tickets to USL matches in historic MUSC Health Stadium on Daniel Island start at a league-low $10, and continue to be the unrivaled best entertainment bargain in the South Carolina Lowcountry. They can be purchased online via charlestonbattery.com or ordered over the phone at 843.971.GOAL (4625).
Last year’s Battery posted multiple standing-room-only sellouts at the team’s 5,100-seat English-style stadium. The team shattered its all-time average home-attendance record while fighting to a third-place regular-season finish and reaching the conference semifinals.
With USL growing to 29 teams for 2016 and the sale of the Battery to local B Sports Entertainment earlier this month, interest in the team, the league and the sport continues to grow, said Battery President Andrew Bell.
“Breaking our attendance record and getting over the 4,000-seat threshold for the first time were great milestones for the club last season, but we see them in the context of soccer’s rising popularity in North America,” Bell said. “It’s always exciting to get a season underway, but with the investments that B Sports is making in the team and the stadium, we feel that this is likely to be a memorable, watershed year for soccer in Charleston.”
The club’s new owners have committed to multiple upgrades, including a new audio system, upgrades to stadium concessions, free Gigabit stadium wifi, and installing the second-largest outdoor video board in the state. With 2,880 square feet of viewable area, the 90-by-32-foot MUSC Health Stadium replay scoreboard will be roughly twice the size of the board at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, not to mention the largest board at a stadium of this size, anywhere. Not all the improvements will be in place when the season kicks off against FC Cincinnati on March 26, but the match-day experience should improve dramatically as the each new piece is put in place, Bell said.
The team’s recent success and offseason news has sparked new levels of interest.
“We’re five months ahead of where we were last year when it comes to season tickets,” said Suzanne Sudzina Brandon, director of ticket sales. “We’ve already sold more this year than we’d sold six months into 2015. If that’s any indicator of how individual tickets are going to run this year, buying sooner rather than later might be good idea.”
In addition to the home and regular-season opener against expansion FC Cincinnati on March 26, other home highlights include:
- Carolinas rivals Wilmington Hammerheads on April 9
- Military Night vs. Toronto FC II on May 14
- 2015 Eastern Conference runners-up Louisville City FC on Family Night, May 28
- Historic rivals Richmond Kickers‘ only visit to Charleston on July 2 (fireworks to follow)
- Two August visits from Carolinas rivals Charlotte Independence, with huge significance in the annual Southern Derby Cup competition (Aug. 3 and 27)
- USL Champions Rochester Rhinos on Sept. 3
- The regular-season finale against 2015 playoff team New York Red Bulls II on Sept. 24.
All Battery matches this season kick off at 7:30 p.m.
B Sports Entertainment (BSE), a locally owned and privately held company, has purchased the Charleston Battery professional soccer club, executives announced Monday afternoon.
Terms of the deal, which include the MUSC Health Stadium property, the team, and its associated USL franchise, were not disclosed.
“This is a fantastic day for soccer in Charleston,” said Andrew Bell, Charleston Battery president. “We have an amazing, innovative new ownership group that is 100 percent committed to continuing the Battery’s incredible legacy while continuing to grow its ties to the community. They are going to be immediately investing heavily in the infrastructure here at the stadium, which will allow us to accelerate our recent growth.”
Some of that investment began even before the deal was finalized. Renovation of the offices at MUSC Health Stadium on Daniel Island started in January. The stadium’s new Interstate 526 electronic message board began operation last week. A major overhaul of the stadium’s audio system is on schedule to be in place before the start of the regular season on March 26, and an upgrade to digital infrastructure will provide free, Gigabit high-speed wireless Internet to users throughout the complex by this summer.
But the most notable improvement at the stadium will be the installation of the second-largest video board in South Carolina on the South Concourse. With a viewable area of almost 3,000 square feet and state-of-the-art control and resolution, the 90-by-32-foot screen will be a game-changer, Bell said.
“Fans expect instant replay at sporting events, but to do that with some quality requires expensive technology. So this is going to be brilliant. The Battery has deep roots in soccer history, and BSE has a bold vision for soccer’s future. It’s going to make for a very exciting year.”
Construction and installation of the board is expected to be complete in the early spring, and the display will showcase a technologically sophisticated new digital platform combining streaming and social media. Those capabilities also align well with the new ownership group’s plans to host more events at the stadium, Bell said.
Since its inception in 1992, the Battery had been owned by a group of Charleston business people led by tech entrepreneur Tony Bakker. Bakker’s group introduced professional soccer to the Lowcountry, built the first privately financed soccer-specific stadium in the United States (a distinction shared with Ohio’s MAPFRE Stadium) in 1999, and pioneered the concept of hosting preseason tournaments with Major League Soccer. The Battery has also won four league championships along the way.
Today the Battery and USL rivals Richmond Kickers stand as the oldest continuously operating professional soccer teams in America, with a shared history of league competition that dates to May 1, 1993.
That original league has since developed into USL, the fastest-growing professional soccer league in North America. Last year USL petitioned the U.S. Soccer Federation for Division 2 status beginning in 2017, and In 2016 it comprises 29 teams stretching from Florida to British Columbia, each competing in a 30-game season.
Local interest in the sport has expanded in step with its growing national profile. The Battery shattered its all-time attendance record in 2015, averaging 4,080 fans per match while securing a five-year stadium naming-rights agreement with MUSC Health. Fan enthusiasm has also produced intangible results. The Battery enter the 2016 season riding USL’s longest active home unbeaten streak: 25 games without a loss since May 10, 2014.
The club also announced an affiliation with 2017 MLS expansion team Atlanta United FC last month, and will return the core of a 2015 squad that reached the USL Eastern Conference Semi-final.
With those successes come higher expectations, both on and off the field.
“We’re at a very significant, and I would say well-timed, moment in club history today,” Bell said. “For the last few weeks, we’ve been telling people, ‘Stay tuned.’ Now we can finally tell them, “Get on board.’ We are excited and very optimistic about the coming months and years.”
Originally posted on Charlestonbattery.com by Dan Conover.
Zac Brown’s delicious two-day event highlights Charleston’s remarkable food scene with an equally remarkable lineup. Music for this hybrid event includes Cam, Hunter Hayes, Marshall Tucker Band, Thomas Rhett, Kacey Musgraves and others. As is the Southern Ground tradition, the Zac Brown Band plays a “Super Set” at the end of each night, with other headliners from the lineup coming in to jam. It’s all good, but the Super Set is the kind of thing you’ll tell your grandkids about. See more here.
See Zac Brown Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Thomas Rhett, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Kacey Musgraves, Hunter Hayes and Marshall Tucker Band.
Music, food and fun await – April 16-17, 2016!
Get your tickets here.
Zac Brown Band’s Southern Ground Music & Food Festival returns to Charleston, SC on Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17 for two days of non-stop music and artisan food that’s earned the fest it’s long-running title of Charleston City Paper’s reader-voted “Best Music Concert”. This year marks the festivals first springtime appearance and will be held at the MUSC Health Stadium (previously named Blackbaud Stadium).
Called “one of the most diverse and delicious music festivals on the concert calendar” by Country Weekly, this year’s festival continues a five-year trend of setting the bar even higher with confirmed performances by Tedeschi Trucks Band, Thomas Rhett, Marshall Tucker Band, Hunter Hayes, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Kacey Musgraves, Sam Bush, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers, A Thousand Horses, Old Dominion, Cam, Packway Handle Band, Drake White and The Big Fire, and Muddy Magnolias.
The line-up will also feature performances by members of Zac Brown Band including Coy Bowles & the Fellowship, Clay Cook, and John Driskell Hopkins.
Continuing the festival’s annual tradition, Zac Brown Band will close each night with different “Super Sets” featuring special sit-in performances from other acts on the bill. Past sit-ins include Kenny Chesney, John Fogerty, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Kenny Rogers, and John Bell.
Ticket pre-sale for Zac Brown Band fan-club members begins on Tuesday, December 15 at 12pm ET. General sale opens on Friday, December 18 at 10am ET. Get tickets at www.southerngroundfestival.com, AXS.com or Charge by phone 1.888.929.7849.
VIP ticketing options are available, including Zac Brown Band’s customized Front Porch Stage Boxes, which provide concertgoers with onstage seating and a gourmet meal prepared by a team of renowned chefs under the helm of Southern Ground Executive Chef Rusty Hamlin. Guests in the boxes are served complimentary beverages. For those traveling from out of town, please visit CIDentertainment.com to find out more about special travel packages.
Two-day festival passes start at $189 and special 4 pack pricing will also be available. Gates open at 12pm ET on both Saturday and Sunday. Southern Ground Music & Food Festival is produced by Madison House Presents, ROAR and AEGLive.
Stay tuned for more details on the full music and food lineup: http://www.southerngroundfestival.com.
For more information on Southern Ground Music & Food Festival, please contact Rebecca Shapiro (firstname.lastname@example.org), Elizabeth Lutz (email@example.com), Nina Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Saara DeAngelis-Jimenez (email@example.com) at Shore Fire Media, 718.522.7171 or Liz Norris (firstname.lastname@example.org) at ROAR, 310.424.7800.