Jacksonville Armada unveiled; professional soccer begins April 2015
After a hiatus of more than 30 years, the city’s first major league-level sports franchise is back with a new name and logo, the Jacksonville Armada of the North American Soccer League.
The branding was introduced Tuesday during a ceremony at the Jacksonville Landing attended by league, team and city officials.
More than 1,500 soccer fans who responded to a “name the team” contest indicated they wanted a strong name that connected with the St. Johns River and Jacksonville’s significant military heritage, said team owner Mark Frisch.
“The North American Soccer League will represent the First Coast with pride,” he said. “We want to grow Jacksonville as a destination for world-class sports and entertainment.”
Frisch is executive vice president of Sea Best Seafood, a division of Beaver Street Fisheries Inc. Sea Best also has naming rights to the Arena Football League field inside Veterans Memorial Arena.
He said his goal is to have a team that will win on the field and support the community off the field. He credited the city’s youth soccer leagues as being a factor in the decision to establish the team.
The NASL’s previous presence in Jacksonville was 1980-82 when the “Tea Men” played in the old Gator Bowl stadium.
Armada President Steve Livingstone, a former sales executive with the Jacksonville Jaguars, said the region is ready for a professional soccer team.
He estimated there are 300,000 soccer enthusiasts in North Florida, including 15,000 recreational players.
“Our region is truly rich in soccer,” he said. “Our goal is to inspire a new generation of soccer fans.”
Bill Peterson, league commissioner, said Jacksonville, the 13th team in the league, will develop cross-state rivalries with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Other teams in the league are the Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina Railhawks, Indy 11 in Indianapolis, Minnesota United, New York Cosmos, OKC in Oklahoma City, San Antonio Scorpions and Virginia Cavalry. Two teams, the Ottowa Fury and FC Edmonton, are based in Canada.
Peterson said the league plans to grow to 18 teams over the next few years.
“Jacksonville is now part of the global soccer economy,” he said. “You’re in store for an incredible experience that will change your lives forever.”
Mayor Alvin Brown said establishing the franchise brings a “family-friendly game that’s always action-packed” to Jacksonville. The Armada also is a marketing opportunity.
“It’s one more way people will hear about Jacksonville. It will showcase to the world Jacksonville is going to the next level with professional soccer,” Brown said.
The Armada is scheduled to begin play in April 2015 at a venue yet to be determined, Frisch said.