TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Pima County Supervisors are kicking in more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars to attract Major League Soccer teams to Tucson.
They would come for annual preseason training camps at the Kino Sports Complex to begin next January.
This isn't a done deal yet, but the county says it's laying the groundwork to bring in at least half of all the MLS teams to Tucson for preseason training.
A 2,200 seat stadium is going up at the Kino Sports Complex on the northwest corner of Ajo Way and Country Club Road.
From the fields to the clubhouse, the old Major League Baseball spring training facilities are being reworked for soccer.
Tuesday the Pima County Supervisors voted to put another $280,000 into an effort they hope will generate an economic impact of nearly $4 million its first year.
The money will be used to entice some 10 MLS teams and a team from Mexico to come play at the Kino Sports Complex during the height of tourist season--bringing lots of money for lodging, food and travel with them.
"The Major League Soccer teams will have to market to their own fan base in their own home market to come and travel to Tucson in January and February and attend the event," says Greg Foster, FC Tucson Managing Member.
FC Tucson is Tucson's hometown soccer club.
Along with the county and Visit Tucson, it's one of the key players in this effort to bring MLS teams to Tucson.
FC Tucson's job is to work the deal with the MLS.
Foster says Pima County is making an investment in capturing the teams and their fans.
Plus, Foster says there's the opportunity to have network television and digital media coverage of games in Tucson which also could be a boon to tourism as Tucson gets more national and international exposure.
"I think there are only going to be two or three locations in the country that will ultimately host Major League Soccer preseason. I think Major League Soccer is at the very beginning of its rise on the growth curve as far as the prominence of the league and the number of franchises and, frankly, the economic impact of the league. And so Tucson is getting in on the ground floor of an outstanding professional sports league," Foster says.
So, it's about soccer, but it's also about tourism dollars and what the soccer fields can do for the community.
"The work that we've done at Kino has made that the soccer complex in the West. Frankly there are very few communities , if any, that can compete with us in the facility that we've put together this quickly. We're very proud of that and we're going to continue that investment because, as I said, this isn't just about pro soccer. This is about our kids. This is about the amateur leagues. This is about the youth tournaments that we bring into Tucson," says Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias.
Elias says the same fields the pros would play on will be open to youth and other teams and clubs.
Foster says the MLS already knows Tucson through the Desert Diamond Cup Tournament.
He says 18 teams have come through Tucson in the past two years.
Foster says give him 60 days, and the expectation is his group will be able to finalize a deal with the MLS for preseason training in Tucson that he hopes also will incorporate the Desert Diamond Cup Tournament.
He says among the other things to be worked out are dates and which teams would come to train.