Football clash: Brett hopes to put MLS farm team in Spokane

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The prospects for professional football in Spokane have become much more interesting.

Brett Sports and Entertainment is taking a late step to establish a Major League Soccer farm club in the planned new downtown stadium next to the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

Primary owner Bobby Brett also owns the Spokane Indians and Spokane Chiefs franchises, but he noted Thursday that his group also owns the former Spokane Shadow football club.

“I’m just a huge sports fan,” said Brett.

The Promise of Professional Football is a new development that crowns a remarkable year on the downtown Spokane sports scene. Eight months ago, Spokane Public Schools was set to build a new $ 31 million stadium at Joe Albi’s former site in northwest Spokane.

However, in early March, the Downtown Spokane Partnership presented a new proposal for a downtown stadium. It was approved by the school board on May 5th.

The stadium is expected to be completed in about a year. The project is now going through the design phase, and on Thursday the district released more detailed renderings of the facility and its proximity to neighboring buildings, including the new indoor Podium sports center.

In addition to hosting high school sports, the new stadium was set to be the home ground for a United Soccer League franchise in the spring of 2023.

It can still happen. However, Dave Pier, director of marketing at Brett, said Thursday the local company plans to submit a competing proposal for an MLS farm club.

“We are very excited to partner with MLS and the (public facilities district),” Pier said of the municipal branch that manages the stadium. “We believe that, like our other teams, our goal will be to provide affordable entertainment for families.”

The proposal follows a decision made last summer by the MLS to launch a professional lower division football league that will start in March 2022 and initially consist of around 20 affiliated teams and possibly other independent clubs.

According to Mark Abbott, president and deputy commissioner of MLS, the new league would be a bridge between MLS Next, the league’s youth development platform launched in 2020, and big professional teams like the Seattle Sounders or the Portland Timbers. Farming system teams would provide more opportunities for promising football players to compete in top-level competitions – think Triple A teams and Major League Baseball.

It is also an opportunity for Major League Soccer to enter new markets and tap into a growing fan base, and coincides with the league’s mission to be “a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization” that offers opportunities in the front office, coaches and owners. .

Cindy Wendle, who was running for President of Spokane City Council and is now President of USL in Spokane, set the stage for the men’s and women’s teams to start playing in the spring of 2023.

Wendle said a front office is in place and potential owners have been identified.

“We’ve had people come forward,” Wendle said.

“I have no doubts that USL is the best committed football league in this city, and that’s what this city needs right now,” said Wendle.

Although owned by the school district, the new downtown stadium will be managed by the Spokane Public Facilities District, which also manages the nearby arena and the newly completed podium.

Stephanie Curran, executive director of the PFD, acknowledged Thursday that Brett’s late interest “is a sticky situation as we have been working with USL for over a year.”

However, Curran said that “as a public entity operating in the public interest,” the district “will do the best thing for the community” and will hear from representatives of both leagues.

The PFD has already launched tenders on both sides. Curran said Thursday that a schedule was being finalized. At some point, perhaps later this month, a PFD committee will hear detailed proposals from each league.

A decision is expected no later than mid-December.

“We have a build schedule that we need to make sure it doesn’t impact, and the football component impacts part of the design,” Curran said.

USL’s interest dates back to February 2020, when Spokane County Treasurer Mike Baumgartner held a press conference asking the school district to consider a downtown site.

USL COO Justin Papadakis was also present at the event, which showed some examples of current stadiums across the country.

“USL have been really involved with Spokane from the start,” said Wendle, who also underscored the league’s commitment to field a women’s team at Spokane.


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