Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, with billions of people tuning in to watch the World Cup, and now it will be coming local. The Fortuitous Partners investment firm, led by Brett Johnson, will privately fund a soccer-specific stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, only twenty minutes from the Wheaton campus. The stadium will house a team that will compete in the USL (United Soccer League) Championship, which is the second division on the United States soccer pyramid starting in 2022. The New England Revolution, who play in Major League Soccer, is continually looking for soccer-specific stadiums closer to the Boston metro area, so it is only a matter of time before they leave Gillette Stadium for pastures anew.
Relocation would leave the people of the Providence metro area with a hike of over an hour to get to the stadium. The stadium is part of a $400 million dollar redevelopment plant on the Pawtucket waterfront along the Seekonk River. It will include 200 apartment units across the river and a bridge connecting the two. The whole project will be tethered on $70 to $90 million dollars of public funding. With that, the project would be able to move forward and break ground. With the minor league baseball team, the Pawtucket Red Sox, leaving after the 2020 season to go to Worcester, this leaves a perfect sports option for the people of the Providence metro area during the summer months.
The Celtics decided to put their minor league team in Maine, so the only remaining professional sports teams are the Providence Bruins. In Rhode Island, there are almost 100,000 Portuguese Americans, and in Southeastern Massachusetts in Bristol County. Therefore, this team should definitely draw some interest. Portuguese Americans are the largest ancestry group, meaning that there are more Portuguese Americans living in this area than any other ethnic group, including Anglo-Americans. This, along with the 50,000 Cape Verdeans who live around the Providence metro area, there should be genuine excitement for this team.
Sports typically provide hope and can give cities a sense of unity. Even second division soccer in this country can have a considerable effect on the surrounding community. After the shooting in El Paso, the USL team El Paso Locomotive, banded together to have a great season, averaging around 7,000 fans a game. In New Mexico, the team was extremely successful in their first season in the USL, without a pro team in the area, New Mexicans took pride in their team and averaged over 12,500 fans a game.
The influence of the team on the community is undeniable. In Sacramento and Louisville, there were constant sellouts, and the team became a part of the city’s identity as the second-division soccer team in the United States. There are certainly possibilities for this team to create that team culture with the city if the front office handles it right. Ultimately, this team could become a positive addition for the greater Providence area and a fun time and means of entertainment for Wheaton students.