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.