San Antonio Scorpions: the soccer club that give their profits to charity

时间:2019-09-08 责任编辑:雍门哂 来源:澳门赌博网址大全-2019专业平台Welcome√ 点击:198 次

On Wednesday, the US Men’s National Team will host Mexico in front of a sellout crowd of 65,000 at San Antonio’s Alamodome. The game will mark the first time the two countries have met in the city. And just a 20-minute drive north east, at Toyota Field stadium, is the home of a club that are believed to be another first for American soccer. Scorpions, the current North American Soccer League (NASL) title holders, are the only professional soccer team in the United States to operate with completely charitable intentions, the club claim. All net profits from the Scorpions, their stadium and a nearby soccer facility go towards funding Morgan’s Wonderland, a park for special needs individuals that is based on the same complex as the stadium.

“We think we are the only ones [to operate like this],” Gordon Hartman, the Scorpions’ owner, told the Guardian.

The idea came about in 2006, when the City of San Antonio did not have its own professional soccer team. A year earlier Hartman, a successful businessman, had opted to sell his companies and start the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, a charity that would help children and adults with special needs. He took his family on vacation, where Hartman witnessed a scene that would be the inspiration behind the park, and, later, San Antonio’s soccer team.

Hartman’s daughter Morgan, then 12, was born with cognitive and physical special needs. While on vacation, Hartman watched her attempts to play with children her own age. After Hartman had left the pool, Morgan continued swimming, looking to play with a pair of children who had a ball at the other end of the pool. Unable to communicate with the pair, Morgan tapped the ball as a sign that she wanted to play; the other children, unsure of how interact with a child with special needs, opted instead to get out of the pool because they were scared.

“That always stuck with me,” Hartman said. “So I started thinking to myself more and more: there are many children and adults who miss out because others, perhaps, don’t know how to interact with them or there is not a place for them to really feel comfortable.”

Hartman and his foundation decided that they wanted to try and create the “world’s first ultra-accessible theme park”, where those with special needs could interact with others who face similar challenges, as well as take part in activities that able-bodied people may take for granted. They would establish Sports Outdoor and Recreation, a non-profit, and for the next three years worked with the likes of charities, the City, the State of Texas, and private corporations to gain funding of the park. In April 2010, , a 25-acre, $34m park, opened its doors to the public. Some of the features include a wheelchair-accessible carousel, a fishing lake; touchscreens; and a room where you can play with your own shadow.

Anyone who suffers from cognitive and physical special needs (around 20% of visitors) gets into the park for free, which, when combined with other operating costs, meant that Hartman would need to look for alternative revenue streams to make Morgan’s Wonderland sustainable. When trying to solve this problem, he said that the inclusion of soccer first crossed his mind.

“I didn’t want to just build a park and let it sit by itself; I wanted it to be part of something bigger,” he said. “And then I discovered that there was an incredible desire for soccer in this town, but no-one had ever addressed building a nice facility. I thought: why don’t I put a nice soccer facility next to this hub, and literally hundreds of thousands of people will come and play soccer. They will rent the fields from us, and some of that money would go towards offsetting the costs of Morgan’s Wonderland.”

Hartman jokes about not being a soccer fan before this decision, and needing to “google how many players were on each team”. But the same year that Morgan’s Wonderland opened, so too did the South Texas Area Regional (Star) Soccer Complex: a 75-acre facility next to the park, which would host amateur games and practices for those across Texas.

“Everything that happens there – every soccer tournament that we have, every club soccer practice, every youth league – somehow helps the special needs community and Morgan’s in particular,” Ron Morander, general manager of Morgan’s Wonderland, said.

As well as Star, in 2010 Hartman would also launch Soccer for a Cause, a push to bring professional soccer to San Antonio, with the focus on winning a place in the NASL. Due to the NASL’s independent ownership model, the San Antonio-based club would be able to operate under the same structure as Hartman had used for Star, with net-profits from the team going to help his family’s park. In the fall of 2010, the granted San Antonio a slot in the 2012 season. In 2013, the team moved into Toyota Field, a soccer-specific stadium that is also owned by Soccer For a Cause.

“For Gordon to take the chances he took, coming into this league – then building a stadium – and seeing the opportunities that soccer could provide the cause, was visionary,” Bill Peterson, the commissioner of the NASL, said. “It is a team that generates profit and revenue that he could easily put into his pockets and nobody would think differently, but instead he is using that for a good cause.”

Since their inaugural season, the Scorpions have won the Woosnam Cup (the trophy awarded for the combined finishes in the NASL’s fall and spring seasons), in 2012, and the NASL’s showpiece, the Soccer Bowl, last season. Hartman said that such finishes show that operating with charitable intentions have not hindered on-field progress. “We just have to operate like any other business,” he said.

James Hope, president of the Crocketteers, the Scorpions supporters’ club, said that a charity-meets-soccer approach has led some fans to follow suit. “We now believe that while we enjoy harassing referees and goalkeepers, standing for 90 minutes in 100-degree weather and drinking some fine beer, we have an obligation to give back to the community,” he said.

Hope and the Crocketteers help out with a number different charitable ventures – such as running soccer leagues and providing kits for those in need. He said that most fans are supportive of how the club is currently being run, and of Hartman’s push to gain San Antonio a spot in the MLS, with the city one of the destinations currently being mentioned to fill potential expansion slots. (Hartman reiterates that he wants San Antonio to have the best level of soccer possible; he believes it is more a questions of “when” than “if” the City will have an MLS franchise.)

Toyota Field has the potential to be increased to 18,000 seats, the Crocketeers gained 3,000 signatures for a petition that stated individuals were behind the push to bring MLS to the area, and Hartman and his representatives have held preliminary discussions with the league. Making the move, however, may mean changing the club’s business model, due to MLS’s closed-ownership structure. Hartman hopes the team will continue to raise awareness of special needs individuals, no matter what the future holds.

“Whatever structure we come up with, it will be one that will continue to raise the level of soccer in San Antonio from a professional sports perspective, but it will also play a role in helping special needs individuals,” Hartman said. “I think the MLS welcomes the idea of by moving San Antonio to the MLS and there will be a large endowment created through the purchase of the assets that we have. I think they [MLS] would be very proud of that going towards something like that going towards special needs.”

Since Morgan’s Wonderland opened, it has attracted more than 560,000 visitors from all 50 states and more than 49 countries around the world, Ron Morander said. Though he could not disclose the amount of revenue the Scorpions, Toyota Field and Star bring to the park, Hartman said that the publicity from soccer has perhaps been more valuable than the money generated from the additional ventures themselves. Earlier this month, the park celebrated its fifth anniversary, with Morgan, now 21, attending the event.

“You have a situation where you have an enormous amount of activity helping those with special needs and that is generated because of people learning about what Morgan’s Wonderland is through Soccer for a Cause and the programs that we have,” Hartman said. “And, to me, that’s the most important thing – more than any dollar we could make off this.”