Excitement grows for pro soccer in Lexington as stadium plans, team take shape
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Their professional team hasn’t had its first practice yet. But Lexington Sporting Club got a big win Thursday night.
On the third time of asking, the club can finally move ahead with plans for a stadium to house that team. The LFUCG Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve a zone change request and conditional use permit that would allow a stadium along Athens Boonesboro Road.
“Our goal is to win championships,” said club president Vince Gabbert. Whether that’s a stadium in Athens or Newtown or downtown...wherever that was going to be.”
While some supporters were hopeful it could be downtown, supporter Tyler Crane sees the benefits of the current location.
“Being next to the interstate is going to be really great for pulling in out of state competition, like people wanting to come from Knoxville, Chattanooga,” said Crane.
Supporters say it’s now up to the team to make location a moot point.
“I think that’s what will make it successful, is if the team is successful,” said Jésus Robles, who co-founded the club’s first supporter’s group, The Railbirds.
The roster has come together quick, with the club going on a signing spree since the new year. They’ve announced 21 new players in a span of 20 days.
“But I still think there’s a lot of work to be done to get people invested on the professional side of the game, especially like here locally,” Crane said.
So Crane has researched and profiled each and every one of them. You can read more about the players here.
“Just to give people an idea of who they are, because they might not have heard of them before,” said Crane.
Playing in USL League One, the third tier of American soccer, Crane knows the name recognition won’t always be there for fans. But he’s confident that the final product on the pitch will draw crowds.
“Once you start seeing them play and you see, ‘That’s why they signed this guy,” I think that’s where the payoff is going to come,” Crane said.
Owner Bill Shively hopes the pros can also serve as role models for the hundreds of Kentuckians already involved in their youth program.
“By having the pros mix with our sporting club, it will be wonderful for the kids to see what a pro [does], the dedication it takes and how they do it,” said Shively.
While the club is moving closer to having a permanent home, it still needs a place in the interim.
The club was expected to be playing its inaugural season at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex, which hosts the University of Kentucky’s men’s and women’s soccer teams. UK officials say while they made a proposal, the university and the club couldn’t come to an agreement. So the search continues.
Lexington Sporting Club opens its season on the road in Knoxville on March 18. Its home opener comes a few weeks later on April 8 against Forward Madison.
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