Sunday August 24th, 2014:
We should have discussion and make our voices heard!
NAPLES, Fla. - Southwest Florida Adrenaline owner Jeff Butzke said it’s not a question if the Naples area will have a professional soccer team, but when.
That timetable, however, depends on the development and completion of a multisport complex that would include at least eight outdoor fields, an indoor training facility, and, eventually, a 7,000-seat multipurpose outdoor stadium.
“We are committed to making a professional soccer team happen here in Naples,” said Butzke, who also owns Advantage, Inc., a political campaign consulting firm. “It’s just a matter of time. If the community wants to have a professional soccer team here, we will have a professional soccer team here.
“To have a (United Soccer League) pro team here in Naples is the overall long-term strategy. But first we must build the fields and indoor facility.”
In December, Butzke and Adrenaline head coach John Robinson went before the Collier County Board of Commissioners seeking to create a public-private partnership to help bring about the sports complex.
The board voted 5-0 to ask county staff to try and find a location best suited for the proposed project.
After looking at 15 sites, the county is considering a 59-acre tract near the county fairgrounds, east of Interstate 75 off Immokalee Road upon which a new regional park is slated to be developed, according to Steve Carnell, the public services administrator for Collier County.
Among county staff, the new park is currently being referred to as Big Corkscrew Regional County Park.
“We’re not pursuing the stadium with (Butzke) at this point,” Carnell said. “We are trying to see if we can site him at this Big Corkscrew location for fields and the indoor training facility. We’ve taken a look at this.
“At the staff level, we’re preparing to reach out to the neighborhood, the local homeowner associations and other people who would use that park to get some input on what they’d like to see in the park. Would they be interested in Mr. Butzke’s idea for that park? We have meetings planned in next 30 to 60 days about that park.”
Butzke created the Adrenaline after being awarded a franchise by the USL/Premier Development League in 2012. Having just completed its second season, the Adrenaline have shown on the soccer pitch it is an organization on the fast track.
The Adrenaline, a semipro club comprised of college players and players seeking to break into the pro ranks, placed second in its division this past season and qualified for the playoffs in the 64-team PDL.
By doing so, SWFL qualified for the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup — the country’s national championship tournament with 80 teams from among Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League, USL, and the top PDL teams.
The Adrenaline roster is made up of local, national, and international players from as far as Brazil and England. Three players — Ashley Miller, Oliver Lee, and 16-year-old Ben Tweedie of Naples High — recently have earned tryouts with pro teams in Europe.
Robinson, who played 17 years professionally in the United Kingdom, said creating opportunities for Adrenaline players and local youth players involved in the Adrenaline programs is the focus of the nonprofit organization.
“We’re all trying to get to the next level,” Robinson said. “I’m passionate about soccer. I’m passionate about youth and creating dreams and opportunities for them. Memories you cannot buy, but you can build them.”
Butzke and Robinson have a three-phase plan for building the new sports complex. Once the land is identified and a workable lease is agreed to with the county, the first phase is to have four outdoor, multipurpose fields and a roughly 60,000-square-feet indoor facility that would include three fields and venues for volleyball, basketball and wrestling.
The second phase is to build four more outdoor fields, concession areas, and add a track and weight-training facility to the indoor venue. Butzke estimates each phase would cost around $8 million.
“We want to make sure we’re well-grounded in finance instead of scrounging around for funds,” he said. “The stadium is on the back burner. It is more long term at this point. If we’re able to complete phases one and two, that’s when we’ll start with the stadium and look to bring in a professional soccer team.”
The professional team Butzke hopes to develop the Adrenaline into would play in the USL and serve as a Triple A soccer equivalent to a Major League Soccer team.
In 2015, the Orlando City Soccer Club will begin MLS play. Soccer icon David Beckham also is in negotiation with the MLS to bring a team to either Miami or Broward County. MLS teams have to have a USL feeder program. Butzke sees the Adrenaline as a perfect affiliate for either club.
As with baseball and spring training, Butzke also sees the sports complex as an attractive location for professional soccer clubs, American and international, to come and train in February.
He compares the proposed complex to the 5,000-seat IMG Academy Stadium recently built in Bradenton. The MLS said it will have six teams hold preseason training there, beginning in February.
“Teams from across the world have expressed much interest to John to come here for training,” Butzke said. “That’s the beauty of having an indoor facility. They can go play golf in the afternoon and go to nice restaurants in the evening, have their families come down. Where rather you be, in Bradenton or Naples?“We’re going to do all of this. Its just a matter of time. Is it going to take five years, 10 years? There is a lot of interest. If we build it, they will come.”
In response to community interest, the organization known as The Homeowners’ Association of Golden Gate Estates, aka HOAGGE, was formed. This organization will be open to anyone who owns property in the platted subdivision of Golden Gate Estates. The main goal of this homeowners’ group is to unify the varied sections and neighborhoods within this large development to “Help Build a Sense of Community”. The Association is optional. There are no mandatory association requirements in the overall Golden Gate Estates area.
The Homeowners’ Association of Golden Gate Estates plans has social, community service and educational activities that enhance the living experience within the Estates. Some of the activities that have take place include holiday festivals and socials, community picnics, neighborhood block parties, community service projects, and safety lectures for residents. Rather than relying on our neighboring communities to provide activities of interest, the HOAGGE will enables the homeowners an opportunity to build our own sense of community. Creating these activities and projects of interest will allow us to showcase the unique and diverse character of Golden Gate Estates.
The group is seeking members with positive ideas and a desire to unite the community. This organization will offer the opportunity to create the kind of neighborhood cohesiveness that is found in smaller developments with the goal of making this a better place for everyone to live. All property owners within the platted area of the Estates are encouraged to join, be active, and bring your great ideas. This fun and dynamic group will grow quickly.