Sports

Fresno FC owner will ‘almost certainly relocate’ team after failing to secure site for stadium

The Fresno Fire Squad might have seen its last Fresno FC match unless there’s a “miracle,’ according to head coach Adam Smith.
The Fresno Fire Squad might have seen its last Fresno FC match unless there’s a “miracle,’ according to head coach Adam Smith. jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Three days after a heart-breaking USL Championship quarterfinal loss to El Paso FC, the Fresno FC team owner announced “our investor group will almost certainly be relocating the team” after failing to find a suitable place for a soccer-specific stadium.

“As many of our supporters are already aware, it is very difficult – if not impossible – for a club to truly thrive without its own stadium,” said owner Ray Beshoff in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

The Foxes, who ended their second season with a 16-10-9 record and a third-place finish in the USL Western Conference, have played at Chukchansi Park while waiting to locate a site for a 5,000-seat soccer stadium.

10-26-19-SOCCER-1S4A9303
Fresno FC fans performed one more chant after the Foxes ended the season with a 3-2 USL quarterfinal loss to El Paso FC on Saturday night. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Fresno FC averaged 4,117 fans this season after averaging 4,871 in its inaugural season. This season’s attendance ranks 19th among the 36 USL clubs, which is led by New México United with a 12,693 average.

“We knew that Chukchansi Park could only sustain our club in the short term,” said Beshoff. “The expenses associated with converting a baseball field to be adequate for soccer every home game, as well as the lack of revenue from concessions and parking, was always going to make things difficult for us economically.”

Beshoff, whose investor group plunked down $5 million for the USL franchise, called Fresno a strong market for soccer.

“There is most assuredly a viable, thriving market for the world’s No. 1 sport in the Fresno community,” he said. “However, while the market for a club may exist, the political realities of securing a soccer stadium for our club, coupled with the economic realities that make our current situation untenable is why I now feel obligated and saddened to give you an explanation for why our investor group will almost certainly be relocating the team.”

10-26-19-SOCCER-1S4A8991
Fresno FC Alex Cooper left wing collected an errant pass by El Paso FC goalie Logan Ketterer and blasted in a left-footed goal in the 55th minute to give the Foxes a 2-1 advantage. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Beshoff has worked with city officials to locate a site for a soccer stadium, but none of the prospects were big enough or too costly.

“Time after time, our efforts to secure a soccer-specific home within the confines of Fresno have run in to a brick wall,” he said. “While I’d like to personally apologize to our fans for these failures, I also firmly believe that in hindsight there is little more we could have done as an organization.”

A club needs its own stadium “to truly thrive,” he said.

Beshoff, who owns the Mercedes dealership in Fresno, believes “that if the city became committed to working in tandem on the stadium piece, the foundations for a great team could be laid; and a new owner, with a new team, could be successful.”

“However, it is clear that a solution will not come in time for Fresno FC,” he said.

Fresno FC coach predicted the outcome

Second-year Fresno FC head coach Adam Smith didn’t mince any words following Saturday night’s quarterfinal loss about what was needed to make next season’s team better.

“I don’t think there is going to be a next season,” he told reporters. “There isn’t going to be a next season for Fresno FC unless a miracle happens.”

His team was riding high on Sept. 21 when it scored a 2-1 win at home over Phoenix Rising FC to end the visitors’ 20-game winning streak. Smith called that an “historic” win for the club, which sat in second place until being overtaken by Reno 1868 FC.

10-26-19-SOCCER-1S4A9284
Fresno FC head coach Adam Smith, here applauding the Fresno Fire Squad following a 3-2 loss to El Paso FC in a USL quarterfinal match, said the club won’t be back next year barring “a miracle.” JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

However, after word began trickling out that securing a site for a soccer stadium, Fresno FC players appeared to take their foot off the gas pedal by going winless (0-1-4) in its final five regular-season matches, including a 4-1 home loss to last-place Tacoma Defiance.

The uncertainty took a toll on the team, said Smith.

“That’s the reality of it. That’s the reason why we were in the situation we’re in,” said Smith. “We had great form, momentum and we had self-belief. We had a great locker room.

“I want to be clear, I’m not trying to sort of make this a big deal and an excuse. It’s the truth and you can see that from the timeline.”

Against El Paso Locomotive FC, the Foxes fell behind 1-0 in the 19th minute on a goal by Josué Gómez.

10-26-19-SOCCER-1S4A8963
Fresno FC forward Christian Chaney celebrates a 49th-minute goal to even the USL quarterfinal match against El Paso FC at 1-1. The Foxes lost, 3-2. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

The Foxes busted for a pair of goals within a 6-minute time frame in the second half off goals by Christian Chaney (minute 49) and Alex Cooper (minute 55). With the momentum on their side, the Foxes appeared on their way to host a semifinal match after seventh-seeded Sacramento FC beat No. 2 Reno FC earlier Saturday.

However, El Paso busted those hopes when James Kiffe scored in the 77th minute to even the match and Sebastián Velásquez converted a penalty kick in the 83rd minute.

  Comments