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Aug 19, 2013 11:33 AM by Ryan Haarer

Pima County invests 280k in professional soccer

TUCSON- That $280,000 is going to FC Tucson to get major league soccer teams onto the new fields being built at Kino Stadium. Attracting the game's biggest stars and clubs could be a major boon to the local economy.

The MLS is actually a fairly new league in the grand scheme of things and the county along with FC Tucson wants to be a part of the development.

"We're working with major league soccer to basically build a model for pre-season. And in doing that, what the county has been able to do is create essentially a sponsorship of major league soccer to drive sports tourism here," said Greg Foster, managing member of FC Tucson.

FC Tucson will use the 280,000 dollars from the county to market the old pueblo as a great training destination for MLS teams and stars, putting the city on the map as an important soccer town.

"Two years ago when David Beckham was here in town, just going around Facebook, people in Tucson, you see Beckham was at all those restaurants and bars around Tucson," said Felipe Garcia, Executive Vice President of Visit Tucson.

But, it's not just Beckham the county wants. It's fans.

"So with the league we're looking at teams that are in markets that tend to travel to Tucson, that have cold weather in January and February and maybe have easy airline accessibility. And so we are looking at some big name teams in MLS but also teams that have a fan base that would be likely to travel to Arizona in the winter," Foster said.

Some of the sport's biggest fans are just south of the border. Every year Mexican Nationals spend approximately one-billion dollars in Pima County. County leaders hope to keep those sales tax dollars flowing.

The county says eight to ten thoughtfully chosen teams has the potential to bring in an additional four-million dollars a year.

These new fields will not sit idle while MLS is in the regular season. It will also be home to youth tournaments throughout the year. The stadium is expected to be completed this fall.

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