When major league baseball spring training left Tucson in 2010, it left questions for how the town would fill the void. Now, Major League Soccer’s sixth year training here in Tucson that is bringing in the money.
FC Tucson, an American semi-professional soccer team, is stationed out of Kino Sports Complex and is hosting two large tournaments for the major league teams. 2017 Desert Friendlies ended the beginning of February while the 2017 Desert Diamond Cup starts Feb. 18 at Kino North Stadium and six teams will participate in this competitive tournament.
MLS Cup Champions the Seattle Sounders will be here this year and Dan Gibson, director of communications for Visit Tucson, believes such a high-caliber team will bring in fans.
“We have both the teams from New York this year and New York is a big market for us. It is the market that we make the most money from,” said Gibson.
Visit Tucson, which helps promote the southwest worldwide, has promoted Major League Soccer especially this year.
FC Tucson named Jon Pearlman its new head coach this month. Pearlman sees a bright future ahead for FC Tucson along with other major league soccer teams to expand the soccer footprint in the desert. Pearlman understands that there is a challenge to get Mexicans and Mexican Americans to be passionate about MLS here in Southern Arizona.
“We spend a lot of time in advertising and we want them to know we have a great market and are trying to find what is important to them,” said Pearlman.
Pearlman also sees a MLS team stationed here in the future as part of the growth of soccer in Pima County.
The dream is to build the Mexican American soccer fan presence here and determine a long-term strategy to tap this market. This fan population is more fascinated in their current allegiances to Mexican teams, but the goal is to anchor their interest in soccer here.
Tucson, Oro Valley and Pima County are collaborating on making the area a soccer destination.
Recruiting and establishing partnerships happen year round to make sure that top teams to train and play in the two tournaments FC Tucson hosts through the end of February.
Last year, The Town of Oro Valley hosted Sporting Kansas City and Columbus Crew at Oro Valley’s Naranja Park. While this year, Oro Valley is hosting the New York Red Bulls at Naranja Park.
Amanda Jacobs, Oro Valley’s economic development manager, said,“both teams stayed at the Hilton El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort, generated 916 rooms and $216,000 in direct spending.” This year the city is expecting even more revenue in local hotels and parks due to the popularity of the teams this year and increase of travelers.
Amber Bender, fan of FC Tucson, is excited to see the potential growth if FC Tucson would expand to a professional team.
“They’ve grown a lot over the last seven years and I think it would be a great boost for Tucson. Hopefully they can land some big time sponsors and continue to expand,” said Bender.
Carly Rashoff is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.