After selling out their team’s first two home games at Bishop McGuinness High School, the owners of the Oklahoma City Energy FC are already plotting where the soccer franchise might eventually build a new stadium to become the team’s permanent home.
The Energy recently launched an online survey for its fans, in part to gauge interest locating the stadium in downtown Oklahoma City.
“A new stadium could be located in close proximity to Chesapeake Energy Arena and the Bricktown area with easy access from Highway 40,” one question in the survey states. “ As well, the stadium would include many of the modern amenities that are common with new stadiums including premium seating areas, updated concession areas.”
The Energy does not have a firm location chosen yet, Energy co-owner Bob Funk Jr. said. The Energy has identified five potential locations for its new stadium, but won’t reveal the potential sites for competitive reasons.
The team hopes to build the stadium in the next three to four years and could eventually pursue public money to help build the venue.
“I am in favor of some type of public-private partnership, because I would like to see everyone buy into this,” Funk said. “Everyone has to buy in for this to succeed.”
The team is working with the Massachusetts-based construction consultant CSL Consulting to launch a feasibility study to evaluate items such as the economic impact building such a venue would have on the city, as well as gauge interest from the public on the viability of the soccer stadium.
Funk estimates building the first phase of the venue — a 7,000-seat soccer stadium — would cost from from $20 million to $25 million, not including the cost of acquiring the land. Eventually, the Energy owners foresee a move up from the USL Professional Division soccer league to Major League Soccer.
If the Energy becomes an MLS team, it will need a much larger and more costly venue — a 20,000-seat soccer stadium that could cost an estimated $180 million to build, Funk said. The exact cost of building the soccer stadium is difficult to gauge because of the variables unique to each potential location, such as the kind of parking it will require and land valuation, Funk said.
Without a permanent home, the team has at times practiced in the rather expansive back yard of team co-owner Tim McLaughlin, who joined the Energy ownership in March after leaving Brad Lund’s Sold Out Strategies bid to form an Oklahoma City soccer team that would play in the North American Soccer League.
“I think Bob and I both realized that we wanted to bring soccer to Oklahoma City, and competing was not really the best thing for our city,” Tim McLaughlin said.
“We realize we share a lot of the same future passions for our city.”
The Energy is playing its inaugural season in Oklahoma City at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School and will play next season at Taft Stadium, once a multimillion dollar renovation project there is completed. Oklahoma City Public Schools is renovating Taft and C.B. Speegle stadiums at a cost of $19 million.
McLaughlin also runs the Fields & Futures program, a nonprofit organization he and his wife founded to help overhaul and improve upkeep on Oklahoma City Public Schools playing fields. When the team moves into Taft Stadium next year, $2 of every ticket sold will go to benefit the nonprofit. McLaughlin said the Energy also will play a pivotal role in coming years mentoring young Oklahoma City athletes as part of the Fields & Futures program.
“We like to call it ‘soccer with a purpose,’” he said.
Energy head coach Jimmy Nielsen is encouraged by the strong local fan base that seems to have almost instantly sprung up around the club.
The stands were filled with people wearing green Energy gear at the team’s first sold-out home game in April and another sold-out crowd is expected at the 3,741-seat venue when the team hosts the Orange County Blues on Saturday.
“We probably could have sold twice that amount of tickets,” Nielsen said. “We have the fans.”
The stadium survey is available online at surveys.customintercept.com/CSL/OKCEnergyFC14_Web/