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- 2013 - July - 8th -

Sunshine Soccer Group organized in Jacksonville

by Joe Wilhelm Jr., Staff Writer

The North American Soccer League seeks expansion and a group from Jacksonville has been asked to make a presentation at its July 25 meeting in Dallas.

New Jacksonville business Sunshine Soccer Group will send CEO Mark Frisch, to make the presentation.

Frisch, 32, also is executive vice president of Beaver Street Fisheries Inc. and views the meeting as an opportunity to bring a new entertainment option to Jacksonville.

"It's what I've been doing for the past 10 years, but instead of convincing a grocery store to stock our seafood, I'm trying to convince a group why Jacksonville would be a good fit for a soccer team," said Frisch.

A group from Oklahoma City also has been invited to the July 25 meeting, according to Bill Peterson, North American Soccer League commissioner.

Sunshine Soccer Group was created May 22, according to records from the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations. President Dario Sala and Frisch are quickly building credibility.

The company's mission is to bring world-class soccer talent to Jacksonville for "friendly" matches to provide entertainment for Northeast Florida soccer fans.

"Things have been moving kind of quickly," said Frisch.

Frisch and Sala can take a break after organizing between two Mexico Primera League teams Wednesday at EverBank Field that was attended by about 4,300 people.

"This was a great turnout on a holiday weekend with a baseball game playing the same night," said Peterson.

The North America Soccer League is a professional league one level below the top American soccer league, Major League Soccer, also known as MLS.

The North America league will consider expansion at its next board of directors meeting July 25 in Dallas.

"I see no reason why an NASL team wouldn't be wildly successful here in Jacksonville," said Peterson.

The league will add four teams during its 2014 season, according to its nasl.com website Those teams are the New York Cosmos, Ottowa Fury FC, Virginia Cavalry FC and Indy Eleven.

The league currently has seven teams: the Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina Railhawks, San Antonio Scorpions, Tampa Bay Rowdies, FC Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Minnesota United FC.

Frisch did not grow up playing soccer, but has recently become a fan.

"I've seen the sport grow in the U.S. and here locally, and there is a lot of passion for the game," said Frisch.

Sunshine Soccer Group is serious about its commitment to the development of soccer in the area and a sign of that is the building permit application the City is reviewing for office space at the Wells Fargo Center.

The office will occupy 1,472 square feet of space in Suite 3232 in the building at 1 Independent Drive.

The project cost is $27,000 and will include new partitions, painting and carpeting for six offices and open space.

If the Sunshine Soccer Group is successful in being awarded a franchise, the office will only be the start of the construction projects.

Each of the teams plays home games in stadiums with seating ranging from about 5,000 to 15,000 that allow fans to experience the games in an "intimate setting," according to the league media guide.

That intimate setting cannot be found in the more than 60,000- seat EverBank Field, where the match was played Wednesday, and Frisch is aware of this issue.

"Our ultimate goal would be to build a new, soccer-specific facility," said Frisch.

"That's what the MLS teams have done and what the NASL is looking to do. From what I've read, it's the only (reason) keeping the Orlando team from moving to the MLS," said Frisch.

The team would begin play at an available venue in Jacksonville, with the University of North Florida mentioned as a possible consideration.

A new franchise also would bring more jobs.

Frisch envisions a staff of about 10 in order to be able to operate a franchise. Jobs would include general manager, technical director, sales, creative, game day operations, coaching staff and players.

Peterson expects the next expansion teams to start play in 2015.

jwilhelm@baileypub.com

@photojoe71

(904) 356-2466

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