Deadline approaching for new soccer team to name home site, hire head coach

New soccer team owner wants to bring a "professional experience" to fans

Bob Martino wants to be involved in the Chattanooga community.

Back in his home of Park City, Utah, he is involved in domestic violence causes and the Ronald McDonald house. His wife is involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

His goal is to have a similarly positive impact in his new home.

Martino, the owner of the city's new United Soccer League team, was in town Thursday with president and general manager Sean McDaniel to get some work done. The Chattanooga team recently had a contest to help name the club that will begin play in 2019 and settled on five finalists: Chattanooga Express, Chattanooga Generals, Chattanooga Ironhorses, Chattanooga Red Wolves and Sporting Chattanooga. Its new name will be made official on Sept. 6.

The club owner - an Ohio native that attended Ohio State - said he hopes to deliver a "professional experience" to fans who attend his team's matches in 2019 and beyond.

"I want it to be very obvious that at the professional level, the atmosphere, the activities available to kids on and off the field and with or without the players is professional," Martino told the Times Free Press. "I want to make the gameday experience a very, very enjoyable family atmosphere and attract as many of the families to the games as we can and make it an enjoyable experience so when they go home to spend time with families and reflect on it, they think, 'I'm glad we took the kids and went down to the game.'"

Martino has three sons, two of whom are soccer players. He developed a love through them and had decided on investing in either a hockey or soccer team over the last five years. When the USL started looking into forming a Division III league, it presented a number of city options to Martino that fit the league's criteria.

He chose Chattanooga because he thought the city "was a good fit." Once deciding on the city, he reached out to the Chattanooga Football Club, which has been playing since 2009, in hopes of forming a partnership, but "heard nothing."

"The surroundings were very similar to [where] I grew up in Ohio," Martino said, noting how "active" the community is. "When I saw the area, I can appreciate how the community is. It's a great, great area, and I really look forward to spending time here."

Martino said that while the team doesn't have a home site as of yet, the club is in negotiations and "feels good about where they are going." Finley Stadium - Martino's preferred facility - currently houses the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football and women's soccer teams, the Chattanooga Football Club men and women, as well as being the home field for Sale Creek football games.

"Like anything, it's a negotiation," he said. "Finley is juggling a lot of balls right now, trying to figure everything out. I think we have a very attractive program that we're presenting to them and making it so it's very solid financially for them with very attractive lease terms. We have a lot of plans for attracting larger crowds for special games that we're already working on, and that stadium is a very intricate part of our current plan.

"If for some reason it couldn't be worked out, we'd certainly figure it out, but Finley has a great group of people that understand what we want to do as days go on as we communicate with them. We're trying to get information out as quick as we can and build a relationship with the stadium so we can utilize it and fill it for them."

Those negotiations have to move quick: the team has to submit a home site with the facility's open available dates to the USL by late September. Meanwhile, the team has to figure out a name and hire a head coach, which it also plans to do in the next 10 days or so.

The new head coach will finalize the roster, whose players will begin play in late March, with a regular season schedule planned through mid-September. The team is expecting to have anywhere between 14 and 20 home matches.

Contact Gene Henley at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.