Jacksonville Soccer Starting From Scratch

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Dario Sala (left) and Mark Frisch of the Sunshine Soccer Group discuss the future of Jacksonville’s NASL franchise in their new, unadorned office. The team begins play in 2015. (photo by Cole Pepper)

by Cole Pepper
September 1, 2014

It’s not that there isn’t anything to see from Mark Frisch’s new office. There just isn’t much to see on the inside.

Looking out from his 32nd floor downtown office, Jacksonville stretches out from the base of the building, down the St. John’s River toward the sports complex and beyond.

The question is this: at some point, will the NASL team’s (name to be determined, probably by October) stadium be visible?

Those are the two questions Frisch is asked most often about his NASL team. What will the team be called (he says he’s asked several times a day)? Where are you going to play (either UNF or EverBank Field, a decision he hopes to make in the next two months)?

In his new office, barren, without a single piece of furniture, save for the built in waist high cabinet next to the front door, Frisch can allow himself to enjoy the nothingness. NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson offered Frisch the chance to purchase a team to be relocated, but the 32-year old didn’t want to fix a broken franchise. Instead, he wanted to build something from the ground up.

“It’s exciting,” Frisch said. “We just got approval to get the key here last week. It’s really awesome. You don’t get many opportunities to do something, especially in the sports world like that. It’s going to be an amazing time.”

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For now, there are no desks, no chairs, not even a phone at the headquarters of the Jacksonville NASL franchise. Owner Mark Frisch (right) expects that to change within weeks and by October, Frisch says he will unveil the team name, colors, logo and top business executive. (photo by Cole Pepper)

For Frisch, this is all about prioritizing. He wants to start building the fan base early. Several hundred season tickets were reserved by fans who put down a small deposit. He has his soccer guy, Dario Sala, who will handle the duties of finding and signing a coach and player as well as developing the academy system for Jax NASL. The next step will be to hire a business head. Something akin to what Mark Lamping is to the Jaguars, a president of business operations who will work hand in hand with Frisch and Sala to create the full organization over time. That hire may be the next big announcement to come out of the Sunshine Soccer Group, the company Frisch and Sala set up to promote soccer and eventually bring the team to Jacksonville.

“To me this is more exciting that buying a team and relocating them,” Frisch said. “This is our team from the ground up here in Jacksonville.”

Listen to Cole Pepper’s full interview with Mark Frisch:

 

Both Frisch and Sala have traveled around the soccer world to learn from the franchises who have enjoyed the best success in the MLS and NASL. The challenge is to blend the best practices of those other teams with a message that will resonate in Jacksonville with the already dedicated soccer fans as well as those who want to be a part of the newest sports franchise in town. Then there is the building of the academy, the youth teams that will feed talent into the NASL team. In essence, the Jacksonville NASL’s minor leagues.

For those who are already sold on supporting the team, jaxnasl.com is the website where individuals can pay a $30 per ticket deposit to reserve their season tickets for the inaugural season in 2015.