Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Baseball Grounds to Be Armada's Pitch, Too; New Soccer Team Opts for 3-Year Deal to Play in Suns' Park over UNF

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Baseball Grounds to Be Armada's Pitch, Too; New Soccer Team Opts for 3-Year Deal to Play in Suns' Park over UNF

Article excerpt

Byline: Clayton Freeman

The Jacksonville Armada will begin its voyage from the heart of downtown.

The new North American Soccer League franchise announced Friday a three-year deal to play its home games at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The team chose the Baseball Grounds, home of the Jacksonville Suns minor league team, over the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium. The Armada said it hopes someday to have a soccer stadium of its own.

The deal is dependent on City Council approval to authorize the Armada to play at the city-owned ballpark, as well as to cover a portion of the cost involved in converting the park between baseball and soccer. Mayor Alvin Brown and City Councilman Johnny Gaffney both offered their support for the legislation on Friday.

The Armada chose the Baseball Grounds after talks between the Armada and UNF failed to reach an agreement.

Team owner Mark Frisch said the Armada "went all the way through the negotiations with UNF, made a bunch of assumptions, and ran the numbers" before deciding on the Baseball Grounds.

He cited the challenges involved in improving the Hodges Stadium seating areas, concession stands and walkways beneath the grandstand.

"It was two very different options," he said. "One great field where we would have to do upgrades to the venue, and one wonderful stadium with all of the amenities but not having the perfect field situation.''

UNF athletic director Lee Moon acknowledged a meeting with the Armada, saying "a lot of things were discussed, never in detail, just general terms," and that the negotiations were "not just an athletic decision."

Frisch expressed confidence that soccer fans throughout the area, many of whom live to the south and east of the St. Johns River or in Clay County, would be willing to travel the extra distance downtown.

"We're going to talk up this place, show them some of the layouts that we have here, and show them that this is a fantastic venue for soccer," he said.

One challenge for the Baseball Grounds will be converting the stadium from baseball to soccer and back, including the removal or retraction of the pitcher's mound to accommodate soccer.

Suns owner Peter Bragan Jr. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.