USL News Release
Monday, September 15, 2008
MIDLAND, TX -- United Soccer Leagues announced Monday that the ownership of the Midland RockHounds minor league baseball team unveiled plans to bring a new level of soccer to West Texas with a Premier Development League franchise. The team will begin play in spring of 2009 at Grande Communications Stadium next door to the home of the ‘Hounds at the Scharbauer Sports Complex.
The team’s official name will include “West Texas United,” chosen to utilize and expand on the West Texas United Soccer Club, the largest youth club soccer organization in the Permian Basin. A nickname will be determined through a name-the-team contest.
The club will be operated by RockHounds co-owners Miles Prentice and Bob Richmond and staffed by the existing baseball front office. RockHounds general manager Monty Hoppel says that, although the sports share the same playing season (spring / summer), the two will make an outstanding combination.
“We think the soccer team will compliment the RockHounds season, rather than compete with it,” Hoppel said. “The (eight) soccer home dates will fall when the RockHounds are on the road so, really, we have the best of both worlds.”
Hoppel added that while operating two teams in the same season will present its share of challenges for the staff, the Scharbauer Sports Complex, with two stadiums in one venue, not only eases the burden, it makes for a virtually ideal situation.
“We have two premier facilities, side-by-side, and we’re really looking forward to utilizing both venues,” he said. “Grande Communications Stadium will be one of the finest facilities in the (soccer) league, and the soccer dates come during what is usually a very slow time of the year. To have both stadiums utilized during the spring and summer is great for the (sports) complex and the community.”
Hoppel also knows, first hand, about the community’s interest in the sport of soccer, having been personally involved with youth soccer in the area (he currently serves on the board of the West Texas United Soccer Club).
“West Texas … the Permian Basin … has been remarkable in its support of the RockHounds, so we know what a great sports community this is. It’s also about providing what we’ve said since day one: First-class, affordable family entertainment. There are a lot of soccer fans here already, thanks in large part to the strength of the youth soccer programs. The sport will be new to others, but the venue is perfect and the level of soccer will be excellent. Two sports, side-by-side, all spring and summer? What could be better.”
Miles Prentice and Bob Richmond have owned the RockHounds baseball club since 1990. The franchise branched out into hockey, creating and operating the (Odessa) Jackalopes professional club for the first 10 years of its existence (1998-2007), with the hockey club twice being named its league’s franchise of the year. During the era of the current ownership and management, the baseball franchise (now the Double-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics) has been named Texas League franchise of the year three times. In 1995, the club received the Bob Freitas Award (best Double-A franchise in the nation) and the RockHounds received Minor League Baseball’s highest honor last year, being named winner of the John H. Johnson Award, recognizing the club as the top minor league baseball franchise in the nation.