Pelham welcomes Magic City SC at team’s first press conference

Published 5:02 pm Friday, September 8, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

PELHAM – Pelham officially has a new team that will call the city home starting this January, as new professional indoor soccer team Magic City SC was officially announced by officials from the National Indoor Soccer League (NISL) and city of Pelham on Thursday, Sept. 7.

Pelham mayor Gary Waters said that Magic City SC was a perfect fit for the city because of all of the sports and entertainment opportunities that the city has.

“It just feels right to me because it does give us a chance, and it gives the people of Pelham a chance, and even the people in the metro area a chance to stay and play in Pelham,” Waters said.

NISL officials spoke throughout the press conference about the impact that teams like Magic City SC bring to the communities that they call home.

League president Mary Ellen Rogers pointed to the word-of-mouth growth that each team sees as more people come and watch indoor soccer. She said that the sport is easy to hook people on and that it provides a chance for families from around the region to come to Pelham.

“We know that when we start these teams that it positively impacts the community,” Rogers said. “The local citizens are going to come out and they’re going to love our game from the moment they first see it, whether they know hockey, know soccer or know sports, they’re going to love it. It’s a great opportunity for families to go out and do something fun in an affordable way, and it is also going to bring new people to your city.”

Many officials pointed to Pelham’s success with the Birmingham Bulls as a reason why indoor soccer will succeed in the city, especially because indoor soccer and ice hockey are very similar.

Both sports have teams of six, unlimited and free-flowing substitutions, a penalty box for fouls, power plays and overtimes and shootouts to decide ties, all of which leads to a high-scoring playstyle.

The soccer turf will be laid over the hockey ice, and the field will use the arena’s existing glass, boards and benches.

As for the NISL itself, every team has both a men’s and women’s team that play doubleheaders for each game and receive equal promotion and support, and the six other teams are located throughout the Southeast.

That includes the Memphis Americans, Tampa Bay Strikers, Central Florida Crusaders in Orlando, Fayetteville Fury in North Carolina, and the Columbus Rapids and new expansion side Albany Aces in Georgia.

That is on purpose, according to NISL commissioner Gary Tufford, who said it is not only a strategy to keep costs lower for each team, but to create local rivalries and partner the local soccer community in each city.

The last factor is especially important given soccer’s rise within the United States and Alabama.

“Soccer’s on the increase,” Tufford said. “And as much as the purists don’t want to believe it, it’s part of American culture now, and it hasn’t been for a long time, but it is today and it’s on the rise.

“So, it’s a good chance for us to embrace the game of soccer. It’s a good chance to bring kids out that are playing soccer, that maybe they’re not going to play football, maybe they’re not going to play hockey, and maybe they’re playing soccer. It’s a good opportunity for those kids to get out and see the game and get time to be mentored by our pros, and maybe that’s what they aspire to be.”

According to Magic City SC’s owners, the team aims to partner with the existing community and showcase and grow the talent already in the region.

They are currently accepting interviews for a coach, who co-owner Andrew Haines said they want to be from the area, and will focus on recruiting talent from local college players and graduates.

The team will also be “club neutral,” according to Haines, meaning they will not partner exclusively with any one local club or start their own youth academy, but they will work with as many as possible and even provide opportunities for players to coach or run clinics in the area, even at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena in the offseason.

Haines promised that the team will form relationships with the community as much as possible, as shown by their existing partnerships with Alabama Soccer Association and local chambers of commerce.

“There will not be anybody more active in the community than us,” Haines said. “That is a promise that I give the community, and it’s something that I really believe in. We’ve got to get out there, we need to meet people, they need to see that we’re genuine. And I think once people see that they come out, they’re going to have a great time, it’s going to be a fun time.”

Magic City SC’s schedule runs from January to May, and they will host eight home men’s and women’s doubleheaders at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena.

While a schedule will be announced sometime between late September and early October, according to league officials, season tickets are now on sale starting at $120 for all eight doubleheaders, and single game tickets will go on sale soon starting at $18, with group discounts offered starting at $12 per ticket.