Bob Martino says that no matter where he goes on vacation, he tends to spend time checking out the real estate opportunities in that area.
"It's kind of natural to me to be doing that," the real estate developer said. "Chattanooga is a great city and I hope to be involved in other possibilities in town."
* What: Owner of Chattanooga Pro Soccer
* Residence: Park City, Utah
* Work: Real estate developer
* Education: Ohio State University
* Background: Born in California, married, three children
* Quote: “Chattanooga feels like a friendly city. It has the right atmosphere, family-type activities, biking, hiking.”
Martino's main reason in Chattanooga is as the owner of the new Chattanooga professional soccer team that's aligned with United Soccer League Division III. But he has already talked with various brokers in the city about real estate.
As the owner of the team, he said he plans to put out a winning club and a fun fan atmosphere.
"We're going to deliver an amazing professional team to Chattanooga — an amazing experience," said the Park City, Utah, businessman.
He said he expects to invest "a few million" dollars into the soccer venture.
However, Martino said, he wants to be involved in the real estate side of Chattanooga as well.
In California, he said, sports such as soccer and hockey are put into communities amid mixed-use developments with apartments and condominiums built around them.
"It's a wonderful lifestyle you've created," Martino said. "You kind of live around the ballpark. It's a very interesting chemistry that exists in those two worlds."
The 54-year-old California native who grew up in Ohio said he has approached owning the soccer team as he does real estate in that he understands it takes time to turn a profit.
"That's the environment I'm used to in the real estate world," he said. "I'm a long-term ... investor."
In Park City, Martino said, his current focus is a 1,500-acre project with 2,000 residential units.
"That's a pretty big development," he said. "It's mixed use and we've got a lot of different product in that."
Also, Martino said, he has owned apartments, medical buildings, warehouses and other rental properties in Utah, California, Florida and Ohio. He estimates he has moved 20 times over his nearly 29-year marriage.
While he has a financial-type background and worked as a plant controller, he moved toward entrepreneurship about 20 years ago, he said. Eventually, he migrated to real estate. Resort development pulled him to Park City, he said.
At the same time, with three children ages 24, 22 and 9, the developer said he had a lot of fun over the years coaching sports and turning into an avid soccer fan.
Martino called it "eye-opening" to see how soccer is growing in the United States.
"I'd been looking to get involved in pro soccer teams, hockey and soccer," he said. "This was an opportunity to get involved in a professional soccer franchise. Everything came together."
The businessman said he'd been to Chattanooga before, and he cited its steady population growth over the decade, new companies opening operations here and advances in such areas as the city's riverfront.
He looked at buying soccer and hockey teams in Southern California, noting it's "a huge market."
But, Martino said, Chattanooga is "more my kind of atmosphere."
"Chattanooga feels like a friendly city. It has the right atmosphere, family-type activities, biking, hiking," he said.
Martino expects the soccer team to attract out-of-towners to Chattanooga. They'll stay and dine downtown for the 14 to 20 home dates, he said.
Sean McDaniel, the team's vice president and general manager, said the season likely will stretch from preseason in mid-February to early October.
He said the team is providing open available dates to the league, which is expected to issue a schedule nationally by the middle of next month.
"You're planning nine months in advance," he said.
Martino said the team is expected to lease office space downtown on Broad Street and create 40 jobs. There will be a merchandise store, ticketing, and an area with lounge chairs and a video screen where people can hang out, he said.
"Chattanooga is the perfect spot to have a team for a long, long time," Martino said. "This is a passion and venture for me."
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.