The Fort Worth Vaqueros are looking toward a new goal – building a stadium of their own.
The minor league soccer team currently plays at Texas Wesleyan University’s Martin Field, but if plans follow through for the new stadium, the Vaqueros will have a facility that seats 5,000 people on the inside and has space for mixed uses on the outside, said Fort Worth Vaqueros owner Michael Hitchcock, speaking to the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday.
“For this sport to realize the incredible potential it has in this market, we need a facility that allows us to provide the right fan experience, allows us to generate the revenue that’s required to put the best product on the field, to invest in the growth of the sport,” he said.
The stadium’s location is yet to be determined, Hitchcock said.
There’s no definite timeline as to when the project will begin, but the goal is to build the stadium within the next three years, said Tobias Xavier Lopez, the Vaqueros’ director of business operations.
“Two to three years would be ideal,” he said. “We’re not promising that’s going to happen within two to three years, but that would be the best case scenario.”
The project doesn’t have a set cost yet, as the Vaqueros have not finalized all the amenities the stadium will have, Lopez said.
He said the Vaqueros are in the process of negotiating with private entities that may help fund the project.
Hitchcock said he also hopes to establish a professional women’s soccer team in the new stadium. He’d also like the stadium to be used for Fort Worth Independent School district events and international soccer club activities, he said.
In addition to building a new stadium, the Vaqueros also plan to turn some of Fort Worth’s underused tennis courts into practice facilities.
The tennis courts at Sycamore Park are one option for redevelopment into a practice facility, Councilman Sal Espino said.
The facilities will host 7v7 leagues, as well as youth programs. The Vaqueros are also planning a free youth soccer program, the Fort Worth Vaqueros Youth Academy, which will hold activities in the practice facilities, Hitchcock said.
The Vaqueros will discuss their plans with the Parks and Recreation Department in May, he said.
The Vaqueros also plan to partner with Tarrant County College (TCC) to provide the team with a free college education, Hitchcock said.
Lopez said the Vaqueros and TCC are “still working out the details” for the scholarships, but funding will come from the Vaqueros and their corporate partners.
“They all want to be [Cristiano] Ronaldo, Neymar, [Lionel] Messi,” Hitchcock said. “The reality is, it’s a very small percentage for a variety of reasons. We need to make sure that they use the game they love to help them get the education.”
It’s all part of the Vaqueros’ vision for the future, Lopez said.
“Where we get to eventually with all of these things may be different from the vision today, in two years, three years, five years, ten years,” he said. “Hopefully they’ve all grown in several levels, whether it’s a stadium or an educational program, or the community fields or the free youth academy. We have a vision, and we hope we can make all those dreams realities down the road.”
Working with Texas Wesleyan
Texas Wesleyan took in the Vaqueros after the team’s previous home, LaGrave Field, closed in 2014. The Vaqueros played their 2015 season at Texas Wesleyan and will play there again in 2016.
Texas Wesleyan, too, is hoping to build a stadium in the future. The university announced in February that it is bringing back its football program after a 75-year hiatus. After playing a few seasons at a high school stadium, Texas Wesleyan intends to build its own football stadium on campus, Texas Wesleyan President Frederick G. Slabach said during the news conference announcing the football program.
The university has a “verbal deal” to play its football games at a local high school stadium, but since the deal is not in writing, the name of the high school could not be disclosed, said Josh Lacy, Texas Wesleyan’s sports information director.
Texas Wesleyan Athletic Director Steve Trachier said that the school has no plans to help fund the Vaqueros’ stadium project.
The university is supportive of the Vaqueros’ move, however, Trachier said.
“We would love for them to have a new facility and a new home,” he said.
The city council, including Mayor Betsy Price, also expressed support for the Vaqueros’ plans.
“It’s a great opportunity to continue on with our healthy city initiative, plus just have fun with this beautiful game,” she said.
The Vaqueros’ season begins April 30 against the Houston Regals.