Brad Lund and Bob Funk Jr. faced off Monday at Oklahoma City Public Schools over the lease for Taft Stadium.
Both sides were allotted 15 minutes to present their arguments for why their company should receive the Board of Education's approval.
Funk, the owner and president of Prodigal LLC, implored the board to approve his request to use Taft as the home of a United Soccer League team. Lund, the managing partner of Sold Out Strategies, wanted the board to grant him the lease, so a North American Soccer League team could be housed at Taft.
After both sides presented and answered the questions of the board members who required clarification, the board deliberated its decision.
In a majority ruling, Lund was awarded the rights to Taft's two-year lease plus a renewal option.
“It's a big day for sports in Oklahoma City,” Lund said. “We're going to be bringing an extremely high level of world-class soccer to Taft Stadium. Personally it's a dream of mine. I grew up playing, I met my wife playing soccer, and it's a special, special day for Oklahoma City, not just soccer fans, but sports fans in general.”
Monday afternoon's school board meeting was not just a competition between two rival sports agencies; it was also a clash of the old and new hockey regimes in Oklahoma City.
Lund is the former chief executive officer with Express Sports who owned the Oklahoma City Blazers. During Lund's 16 seasons with Central Hockey League franchise, the Blazers had the best attendance average in all of minor league hockey (9,123), and on five occasions were ranked No. 1 in all of minor league attendance.
Funk Jr., is the current owner of the Oklahoma City Barons and the former co-owner of the Oklahoma City RedHawks. Funk was also the head of the Blazers ownership group. In 2010, it was announced that the Barons would be the Edmonton Oilers American Hockey League affiliate.
“(Prodigal Sport) are good people, and they had a very nice presentation, and we feel real fortunate,” Lund said.
Oklahoma City FC's inaugural season will take place at the conclusion of Taft's renovations in 2014. Once reopened, the stadium will host the revived New York Cosmos, which in its heyday featured soccer-legend Pelé on its roster.
Upon formal approval on July 25, 2013, Oklahoma City will become the smallest market in the NASL. The NASL is the second highest tier in the United States soccer pyramid, with 12 teams in its league.
Lund projects the team will play 22 to 30 home games and has agreed to pay $4,500 per event at the stadium. The OKC Public Schools will receive 15 percent net paid in concessions, and OKC FC will earmark a $2 per ticket surcharge to support Fields and Futures benefiting Oklahoma City Public Schools.
A video board system was another addition Lund wanted to make to the renovated stadium. He explained it would enhance the fan experience for not only OKC FC's professional soccer games, but all prep sporting events at Taft, as well. Through its partnership with Fields and Futures, OKC FC will commit $100,000 toward upgrades to the proposed new score board.
As it stands, 50 percent of OKC FC's marketing efforts are focused within the Hispanic community, and it would continue to be proactive in Oklahoma City's communities by promoting diversity through soccer. Lund said he's already anticipating a strong showing from the city's most loyal group, the Red Dirt Brigade.
“That's the unique thing about soccer is the particular fan club,” Lund said. “There's one, and they're vibrant, and they're loud, and they're creative. (The Red Dirt Brigade) became organized in Seattle and Portland before they ever played one game, so we've already challenged (them) to show us what's next.”
Taft Stadium was completed as part of a New Deal project in 1934, and hosted football games for Northwest Classen and John Marshall. The stadium has played host to everything from All-State games to stock-car races.
In January, Oklahoma City Public Schools announced Taft Stadium would undergo renovations beginning in May. The Oklahoma City-landmark would undergo a 10-month, $9.7 million face-lift.
The makeover is being funded by the 2007 district-wide bond issue and other Oklahoma City Public Schools' funds.
As opposed to the 20,000 people the stadium can currently hold, the renovated stadium will hold only 7,500 people.