Investors kick up new Detroit soccer team

Investors kick up new Detroit soccer team

By LOUIS AGUILAR
/ The Detroit News

Two years ago, Sean Mann started a city soccer league — in part to find something else to do with his neighbors beyond protesting billionaire Manuel "Matty" Moroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge, in their southwest Detroit neighborhood.
The growth and success of the Detroit City Futbol League, which drew 1,000 spectators to some games on Belle Isle last summer, has led 31-year-old Mann and partners Dave Dwaihy, Todd Kropp, Ben Steffans and Alex Wright to buy the rights to form a semi-professional soccer team representing Detroit.

The Detroit City FC (Football Club) is to make its National Premier Soccer League debut May 12 at a to-be-determined home field. The team will play such Midwest rivals as the Milwaukee Bavarians, Erie (Pa.) Admirals and Minnesota Twinstars FC.
The semi-pro soccer team is an outgrowth of the recreation league, in which teams from 21 Detroit neighborhoods and Hamtramck fielded players from young professionals to longtime Detroit boosters to Latin American and Middle Eastern immigrants. They enjoyed displaying local pride and colorful team banners and socializing as much as playing, Mann said.
"It's really about social entrepreneurship for us," he said. "You either have to keep scaling up or it kind of peters out. You see all these kind of projects online, and they turn out to be flash in the pans. This is the best way I know to go large scale."
Mann's day job is program coordinator of the Michigan Municipal League, a government advocacy group in Lansing. He founded the municipal league's Let's Save Michigan initiative to redevelop cities to attract and retain skilled workers.
"It's so clear to me one of the ways to make Detroit better is through soccer. The Detroit City Futbol League proved that," Mann said.
"I would look at the teams and the crowds who came out, and it was such a wide array of people any community wants to keep: young professionals, families, immigrants and people who wanted to be involved with their neighborhood."
Mann and his partners plan on making Detroit City FC games economical. Tickets will be priced as low as $5 per game. Season tickets for eight home games will be priced at $30 and include a scarlet and gold scarf emblazoned with the team logo of the Spirit of Detroit statue.
The players will be a mix of local college players and other area residents. The team owners are still searching for business sponsors and advertisers. Mann said $500 can get a business a banner at the home games, and the price for being the team's main sponsor is negotiable.
The price to own a team in the National Premier Soccer League is much cheaper than starting a pro team. The entry fee is $12,000, said Andy Zorovich, the league's chairman.
"If you were to compare us to the Major League Baseball system, we would be Class A," Zorovich said, which means the team is the beginning level of the minor league system. Many teams don't pay their athletes because they are still playing for colleges, which means they are ineligible to play for pay.
"We are much more about celebrating the game and community outreach," Zorovich said. Depending on the city, matches can attract anywhere from 1,500 to 5,000.
"We do think we will make some profit," Mann said. "But we really want people to have fun at the games."
laguilar@detnews.com
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Detroit’s foes
Soccer teams in the Midwest conference of the National Premier Soccer League:
AFC Cleveland
FC Buffalo
Minnesota Twinstars FC
Greater Binghamton FC (N.Y.)
Quad City Eagles (Ill.)
Eau Claire Aris FC (Wis.)
Madison 56ers (Wis.)
Erie Admirals (Pa.)
Milwaukee Bavarians