Soccer franchise to make Atwood Stadium in Flint new home turf
31 October 2018
A high-level amateur soccer team that's helped guide the career of dozens of players to the professional level has found a new home in Flint.
The Michigan Bucks of the USL League Two, formerly known as the Premier Development League, will move from Pontiac to Flint beginning in 2019 and call Atwood Stadium its new home grounds.
Team and local officials gathered Tuesday afternoon on the campus of Kettering University for the announcement. Atwood Stadium is managed and operated by the university.
"This is a fantastic day for soccer. This is a fantastic day for soccer in Michigan and especially in the city of Flint," said Dan Duggan, team owner.
Duggan was a founder of the Bucks in 1996 which began playing in Saginaw as the Mid-Michigan Bucks prior to relocating in Metro Detroit in 2003 and becoming the Michigan Bucks and then onto Pontiac where it played at Ultimate Soccer Arena.
One of the selling points when conversations began between Duggan and Costa Papista, the former Flint Firebirds team president, was Atwood Stadium that can house approximately 10,000 spectators compared to 2,000 at the Pontiac facility.
Duggan called Atwood a "first-rate facility" while touting the city's offerings.
"The world is viewed through different eyes when you actually come to Flint and see what's going on here," he said. "It is an amazing city and we're proud to be part of the renaissance and we're looking forward to the summer."
The purpose for the team, along with becoming ingrained in the community, is to win, Duggan said.
Previous Bucks teams have won 10 national championships and defeated two Major League Soccer teams with an assortment of collegiate players and amateur soccer organizations that includes a bevy of international talent as part of the global sport.
"For those of you who are new to soccer, that would be the equivalent of the Firebirds defeating the Detroit Red Wings or an NHL team."
A total of 76 players have joined Major League Soccer teams from the Bucks, as well as more than 140 players signing professional contracts, Duggan said.
"This summer, your kids, your grandkids, the people that you know will be able to find some heroes, some local heroes (on the field)," he commented, with players also coming from universities across the state.
Papista called the Bucks a "first-class organization" that people in the soccer world know across the country.
"To be able to partner with Dan, that caliber of a franchise for Flint and Genesee County, I think is absolutely fantastic," he said, with a vision to deliver "world-class sports and entertainment at Atwood Stadium."
Joel Nash, the USL's vice president, said while the players on the field may retain amateur status "Everything about the organization, from the game-day experience to the fan involvement to the community involvement...that is professional."
He also urged the community to rally around the time and "add the flair that Flint brings as a community."
Robert McMahan, Kettering University president, said when the university took over the facility that "we envisioned the stadium once again as a centerpiece of community life in Flint" including offering entertainment and sporting experiences.
More than 50,000 people have attended events including high school football, stadium races, as well as lacrosse and soccer games including the Genesee FC women's soccer team that began playing at Atwood in 2018.
"We are vested in the success of Flint and our friends and neighbors across University Avenue and the city," he said.
Tim Herman, chief executive officer of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, and Mark Young, chairman of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, spoke of the potential economic driver the team could be and the draw it would add for those interested in locating their business in the community.
"This gives us the ability to reach out and show how much we are growing in our community," noted Young.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver thanked the team for locating in Flint while remembering her days as a child spending time at Atwood Stadium.
"To see something coming back is just great for us and I'm sure we're going to have some more tradition at Atwood Stadium," she said. "We're excited to have you here and honored that you've chosen to be part of the Flintstone sports family."
Ticket information and general information about the team can be found at the team's website here.