April 21, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
Binghamton, NY might not be the perfect place to put a new soccer team, but if Greater Binghamton FC’s experience is any indication, it’s about as close to perfect as it gets.
The city is a small, but not too small, market of 250,000 people, far enough away from major cities so its sports teams don't compete with major league franchises for attention, and it's got a built-in market of soccer players to draw from.
"Our owner, Bahij Kashou, owns a sports complex in the Binghamton area,” explained General Manager Bill Arno, who has a long background of involvement in local soccer.
"He's seen soccer grow in this area with his facility," said Arno of the reason Bashou decided to invest in an NPSL team.
Arno says the Greater Binghamton Sports Facility, where the team will play its home games, includes the largest dome in the country, with a 120 x 80 yard field, as well as two indoor-size 200 ft long fields on either end, and a pair of outdoor fields, one grass and one turf--which Greater Binghamton FC will call home.
Ano said the new NPSL team, which will play in the Midwest-Great Lakes Conference along with AFC Cleveland, Detroit City FC, the Erie Admirals and FC Buffalo, fills a need in the market.
"There's no place for the kids to play any higher than high school," Arno said.
The team has already had a number of well-attended tryouts, and Arno said because of availability of college players and other commitments, the team will probably carry a player pool of about 35.
The local media appear to be treating the team as it does the other minor league teams that play in the market, the Binghamton Mets of AA baseball's Eastern League and Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League.
"We had a press conference to announce the team," said Arno. "We had good TV coverage."
Arno says the team expects that coverage to continue during the season as well. "The TV stations are eager to cover our games," he said.
The team also has a built-in audience, with more than 8000 kids playing soccer in the sports complex, over 400 of them belonging to the league run by the facility.
Arno says the team is going to give those kids free tickets, in the hopes they will come to the games with their parents or other family members.
In a market with a number of high-tech industries, as well as several educational institutions, the team will get help from one of the colleges, with grad students helping to run the team and game-day events as part of their curriculum.
"We think we are promoting it fairly well," Arno said of the team's quickly approaching first season.
Charles Cuttone is Executive Editor of Soccer News Net