Soccer team will try to buck trend

Beyond baseball, many Jacksonville minor league teams have come and gone.

  • By Mark Basch
  • | 1:50 a.m. September 8, 2022
  • | 5 Free Articles Remaining!
From left, JAXUSL investor and former football player Tim Tebow; USL Chief Operating Officer Justin Papadakis; USL Super League President Amanda Vandervort; and JAXUSL founding owner Ricky Caplin. (
From left, JAXUSL investor and former football player Tim Tebow; USL Chief Operating Officer Justin Papadakis; USL Super League President Amanda Vandervort; and JAXUSL founding owner Ricky Caplin. (
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The United Soccer League announced Aug. 30 that a yet unnamed Jacksonville franchise will join professional soccer’s top minor league, another addition to a long list of teams in several sports that have come along in Northeast Florida in the past half-century.

But most of those teams have come and gone, finding it difficult to overcome the financial obstacles to successfully operate a minor league sports team.

Only one franchise has achieved sustained success: baseball’s Jumbo Shrimp and its predecessor teams that operated largely under the name Suns for the past 60 years.

That’s because the Jumbo Shrimp have a tremendous advantage built into their business model that other Jacksonville minor league teams do not have: affiliation with baseball’s major leagues.

Some USL teams did have an affiliation with Major League Soccer but that ended this year when the league launched its own developmental league called MLS Next Pro.

The logo for the new United Soccer League franchise in Jacksonville.
The logo for the new United Soccer League franchise in Jacksonville.

The Jumbo Shrimp are affiliated with the major league Miami Marlins. Every major league team has player development contracts with several minor league affiliates that provide — and pay for — all the players assigned to the minor league team.

Most of the minor league teams in Jacksonville in other sports had to find and pay the players themselves.

Major League Baseball’s relationship with its minor league teams has come under scrutiny this year because of the relatively low player salaries. 

The issue prompted several U.S. senators to question why baseball continues to have an antitrust exemption.

In response, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred sent a letter to the senators in July saying minor league teams, and their communities, have benefited from the arrangement between the major and minor leagues.

“One of the critical differences between MLB and other major sports leagues in the United States is MLB’s approach to player development,” Manfred said in the letter.

“MLB Clubs subsidize the affiliated Minor League club owners by supplying them with players, which allows the Minor League clubs to continue to maintain low ticket prices and operate in certain areas that otherwise could not economically support a professional baseball team,” he said.

“Without the (antitrust) exemption, there would be baseball in far fewer communities, and without MLB’s substantial subsidization, the cost of attending a Minor League baseball game would be significantly higher in many places.”

The Jumbo Shrimp also benefit by having far more games than teams in other sports, creating more revenue opportunities.

The team plays in the Triple-A International League, the highest minor league level, and the league extended its season this year, giving the Jumbo Shrimp 75 home games. It previously had 72 home games a year.

Hockey’s Jacksonville Icemen, entering its sixth season in the ECHL, plays a 36-game regular season home schedule.

The Icemen do have an affiliation agreement with the NHL’s New York Rangers but NHL teams do not provide the same level of support to ECHL teams as baseball does to the affiliated minor leagues.

The Icemen are the successor to a long line of hockey teams that came and went, starting with the Jacksonville Rockets in the 1960s.

Jacksonville also has fielded several basketball teams and continues to have a minor league franchise, the Jacksonville Giants, who play in the low-profile American Basketball Association.

Northeast Florida’s soccer history includes a major league team, the Jacksonville Tea Men, which played in the North American Soccer League from 1980 to 1982.

The team got its name from its origins in the Boston area as the New England Tea Men.

However, the NASL disbanded the team after two seasons and the league disappeared after the 1984 season.

More recently, the Jacksonville Armada came along in 2015 to join a minor soccer league that took the NASL name, but that league ended operations in 2017.

The Armada continues to operate with a team in the semiprofessional National Premier Soccer League. However, the team’s plans to build a 10,000-seat soccer stadium in Jacksonville’s Eastside have not advanced since City Council approved a land option agreement for the project in January 2020.

The new USL franchise announced intentions to build a 15,000-seat soccer stadium. Its Aug. 30 news release said details on the stadium and a training facility “will be announced in the coming months.”

The team, which plans to begin play in 2025, apparently will be on its own to find players after Major League Soccer ended its relationship with the USL.

When the agreement ended last year, a story on said the issue was MLS wanted a minor league that was focused on player development but the USL teams were more interested in on-field results.

“I wouldn’t characterize it as us versus the USL,” MLS President Mark Abbott told ESPN.

“I expect USL, which we have a great relationship with, to remain a really dynamic and vibrant league and continue to be very strong and do what it’s doing,” he said.

The Jacksonville USL team’s lead investor is Ricky Caplin, CEO of HCI Group, a Jacksonville-based health care information technology company.

HCI’s parent company was acquired in 2017 by India-based Tech Mahindra Ltd. That deal valued HCI, which was founded in 2009, at $110 million.

So Caplin has a track record of building a company. Now we’ll see if he can buck history and build a successful minor league team in Jacksonville.

Bed Bath & Beyond closing stores

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. said Aug. 31 that it identified 150 stores it intends to close as part of a restructuring plan.

However, the struggling retailer said by email it is not ready to announce the specific locations.

The New Jersey-based chain operates 769 stores across the country, including five in the Jacksonville area, according to its website.

The company also has 135 buybuy Baby stores and 51 health and beauty stores under the Harmon banner. Those stores all will remain open for now.

Bed Bath & Beyond has been under pressure from declining sales. After reporting an adjusted net loss of $225 million in its first quarter ended May 28, it said it will report sales at stores open for more than one year fell about 26% in the second quarter ended Aug. 27.

Several financial news reports said one major issue with Bed Bath & Beyond was a failed push to add more private label brands.

In the news release announcing store closures and other changes, interim CEO Sue Gove said its new merchandising strategy “will be rooted in national brands.”

After its restructuring announcement, the company’s troubles turned tragic when Chief Financial Officer Gustavo Arnal died Sept. 2 from a reported suicide.

Bed Bath & Beyond has been operating without a permanent CEO since Mark Tritton resigned as the company reported its first-quarter loss.

Gove, who is on the company’s board, has been serving as CEO while the company searches for a permanent replacement.

Cadre Holdings starts rating at ‘buy’

Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu began coverage of Jacksonville-based Cadre Holdings Inc. with a “buy” rating Aug. 31, continuing a trend of analysts giving positive outlooks for the safety and survivability products company.

“Cadre offers unique law enforcement exposure across the domestic portfolio, which possesses a stable base growing at about a 3% rate, on average, with opportunity to drive share gain and pricing in excess of material inflation,” Kahyaoglu said in her research report.

“The opportunity for growth comes from international share gain, where Cadre competes with a number of sub-scale competitors,” she said.

Cadre has defied the weak stock market this year, trading at nearly double its November 2021 initial public offering price of $13.

Kahyaoglu set a price target of $32 for the stock.

IPO market in a record drought

Cadre was one of four Jacksonville companies to go public in 2021 in a very productive year for new stocks, but the IPO market has hit a record-breaking drought this year, according to an Aug. 30 report in The Wall Street Journal.

Using data from Dealogic analyzed by accounting firm PwC, the Journal said it had been 109 days since a U.S. company raised at least $25 million in an IPO.

That was the longest drought on record according to Dealogic data, which goes back to 1995.

Besides Cadre, Dream Finders Homes Inc. and Treace Medical Concepts Inc. completed IPOs in 2021.

One other Jacksonville-based firm, Redwire Corp., became public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company.

SG Blocks meeting in Long Island

SG Blocks Inc. moved its headquarters to Jacksonville this year but it will hold its annual shareholders meeting near its former home.

Before moving to Jacksonville, SG Blocks listed its headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.

The company’s proxy statement filed Sept. 2 said this year’s annual meeting is Oct. 14 in Melville, a town on Long Island in New York.

It held the shareholders meeting at the same site last year.

SG Blocks is a modular building company that converts shipping containers for structures.



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