Editor's note: I wrote this blog three different times. The first two versions were full of vitriol and hate ……
The valley sports world is most certainly a robust one. Five major sports entities seemingly dominate our attention while one “minor” player is about to make a great deal of noise and perhaps take its rightful place among the Valley’s major players. (Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Coyotes, Suns and Sun Devils)
It may even surpass one or more of the “established” franchises in very short order in terms of popularity, attendance and sponsorship potential.
The Phoenix Rising Football Club is having success both on and off the field. They currently sit in second place in their conference some 3 points out of first place. Perhaps, more importantly, they are gathering a loyal fan base that make their games fun to attend, even when it’s 105 degrees outside. They have a solid group of sponsorship partners that include big hitters like APS, Coca-Cola and Mayo Clinic. Beyond that, they recently convinced a foreign billionaire to buy 30% of the team.
That’s an ascendant sports franchise if I’ve ever seen one. Let’s continue with the kudos by pointing out that they are savvy enough to schedule most of their home games early and late in the season when it’s still nice in the evenings. That’s fan friendly and smart.
The biggest news awaits as they literally sit at the proverbial altar waiting for Major League Soccer to ask them to join the league. Cincinnati, Miami and Nashville already got the nod and will be moving up in the next two seasons. From what I’ve read we’re up against a few other cities – Detroit, Sacramento, and San Diego. Of course, I am of the opinion that Phoenix would be a far better location for MLS expansion over the others vying for 27th and 28th (and final) teams. Detroit is well, Detroit … so enough said there. Sacramento and San Diego are not necessarily terrible locations. Legendary Suns player Kevin Johnson understands the impact of a professional sports franchise and as mayor of Sacramento, he’s pushing hard to get the league’s attention. San Diego has an empty stadium and a void to fill with the departure of the Chargers. I also think San Diego is a pretty great sports town in its own right.
The criteria that the league looks for when rewarding franchises are:
1. Owners with deep pockets and a commitment to soccer
2. An existing stadium or an approved stadium that is built for soccer; bonus points if the team can control parking and concessions
3. Market size matters … the bigger the better, especially for TV
4. An established local fan base
To me, all indicators point to the Rising being tabbed as the next MLS franchise to join the other 26 teams. The ownership group is a virtual who’s who that includes both super-rich people and super famous people as well. From what I understand, the Salt River-Pima Indian Community is ready to build a soccer-specific stadium. I’ve included a rendering that looks cool and will actually be cool based on the technology they plan to utilize to keep fans comfortable. It’s also notable that Phoenix is the 11th largest television DMA; larger than Detroit (14th), Sacramento (20th), and San Diego (29th).
The Phoenix Rising also has a solid fan base and from what I’m hearing, it’s a ridiculously fun atmosphere to watch a winning franchise. They have a “supporters section” for those that like to make a lot of noise during a match, a rather intimate 6,200 seat stadium, and reasonable ticket prices. I encourage you to see for yourself if you haven’t already. The regular season wraps up in October so there’s plenty of time to catch a game. You can buy your Phoenix Rising Tickets here.
The sports landscape in Phoenix is about to get even better … you might even say it’s “RISING.” Don’t miss what could be the next great chapter in sports for our market.