After having successfully graduated four players from the United Soccer League into Major League Soccer, the New York Red Bulls II team is trying to get its footing once again.
As Shaun Oliver, the general manager of Red Bulls II and VP of operations for Red Bull Arena puts it, the team lost its spine with the promotion of four players.
“Tyler Adams, Sean Davis, Aaron Long, Derrick Etienne, they’re all getting quality minutes with the (New York Red Bulls) and that was our team right down the middle,” he said. “We developed wfive players for MLS in our first year that were playing in USL, so that’s a success. It’s hard for the coach to lose that and try to rebuild a team. We’re still competitive, we seem to have a bit of trouble closing out games lately, but I think the season has gone pretty well for what our goals were getting into it.”
The New York Red Bulls II sits midtable in the USL Eastern Conference for the regular season.
But the team is rebuilding in other ways. This year, after enjoying 10 years of working with Montclair State University, the New York Red Bulls II made the university’s soccer stadium their home. The team has played many of its matches at MSU Soccer Park since the season began in April.
Montclair University’s Jack Shannon Jr, VP for university advancement, said the team began a two-phase upgrade to the MSU Soccer Park, which is to be shared by the school, Montclair United Soccer Club and the New York Red Bulls II.
“We have expanded the capacity of our stadium to 3,500 seats with the future anticipated expansion of up to 5,000 by the end of our agreement with the Red Bulls,” Shannon said. “We’ll also have a new locker room facilities immediately adjacent to the MSU Soccer Park that will be used by the Red Bulls visiting teams, but also will be used by our men’s and women’s soccer programs for the season.”
The partnership has also expanded opportunities for the students.
“We have students that intern with the Major League team and the Minor League team in various positions,” Shannon said.
The soccer club also built a press box and entered a streaming and video partnership with MSU, through which its School of Communication and Media could provide its students a game-day production experience. Shannon said Montclair leveraged its partnership with Sony to provide video equipment.
Oliver said the partnership is the culmination of a decade of work with the school and a way to give back to the community, at zero cost to MSU.
The organizations began working together when the former NYRB coach Bruce Arena sought in the university a permanent training facility for his team.
“Our main goal when we started talking about our USL team and having a home for them was, where can we build something in the community with someone that we have a relationship with, that would leave a positive impact, whether we’re there for 10, 20 or 30 years,” Oliver said.
Oliver said the team hopes to begin Phase II of the project by early 2018. So far, the club has worked with Southern Bleacher and Landtek for Phase I. Contractors for Phase II have not been selected yet.
The university is also seeing a spurt of activity — and opportunity — on the opposite side of campus. With the acquisition of the New Jersey Jackals by University Sports and Entertainment LLC, Yogi Berra Stadium, which sits within the university stadium, is set to receive $1 million in capital improvements to be exploited by the Montclair Red Hawks and the team.
“Jackals baseball and Yogi Berra Stadium have long been beloved staples of the local community,” Al Dorso, CEO of University Sports & Entertainment said. “We look forward to working closely with Montclair State University and other local and regional partners to create a vibrant, ‘go-to’ destination.”
Yogi Berra has been the home of the New Jersey Jackals since it opened in 1998. But under a new partnership, University Sports and Montclair University have agreed to share the baseball stadium during the collegiate season, the Canadian American season and to collaborate on scheduling events in the offseason at the venue.
The New Jersey Jackals also named Joe Redmon the new general manager with the change in ownership back in May.
“Roughly 20 years ago, the state of New Jersey under then-governor Whitman created a set of arrangements whereby Floyd Hall, a private person, entered into a 50-year lease with the university and the state for the site of the baseball stadium and the arena along with the land that sits underneath the Yogi Berra Museum here in our campus,” Shannon said. “Under the terms of that agreement, Mr. Hall and his group then constructed the ice arena and the baseball stadium.”
Through a $10 million agreement, the university obtained immediate ownership of the baseball stadium and Floyd Hall ice arena, Shannon said.
“Mr. Hall and his firm will be operating the ice arena for the next two years to allow for continuity of services and also the satisfaction of existing contractual arrangements that are in place,” Shannon said. “We will begin looking at a third-party operator for the facility, we’ll also look at future upgrades to the facility. We now have club men’s and women’s hockey teams that we did not have 20 years ago when the arena was first constructed.
“There is a tremendous demand for ice rink-time here in New Jersey. The site could potentially accommodate a third sheet of ice. We’re looking at the viability of that expansion as well as other opportunities to support and leverage the existing operation.”
Shannon said that in the near future, Montclair State looks forward to nourishing existing partnerships, while also seeing new opportunities across Floyd Hall, MSU Soccer Park and Yogi Berra Stadium.
“We think there may be some opportunities around sports medicine and physical therapy going forward,” he said. “But, we are focused on doing the best with what we have already in place, but at the same time, we’re very open and on the lookout for other potential opportunities that can either be created or leveraged.”