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Austin Aztex Confirm Move to Orlando, Florida

2010 October 25
by Brian Quarstad

The Austin Aztex have confirmed a move to Orlando, Florida. The team released a press statement late this morning prior to the USL Orlando press conference this afternoon that will be streamed live via USL Live.com.

Early today USL announced a press conference scheduled for 2:00 pm EST where Steve Donner and Aztex Owner Phil Rawlins will be present along with the new coach of the team, believed to be Adrian Heath who recently signed a 3-year extension with the Aztex.

“We have been actively seeking to broaden the investment base for the Aztex for the past 12 months. It has proven extremely difficult given the economic climate,” Aztex President Phil Rawlins said. “Our first and overriding preference was always to keep the Aztex in Austin. But after we exhausted all our options this has not proven possible.”

“I know the new investors very well — they are football people and have been interested in working with us for some time. They like what we have achieved on the field and in the community,” he continued. “However, they made it very clear that their investment was contingent upon the team relocating, citing Austin’s lack of a soccer specific stadium with any corporate facilities, the inability to sell alcohol at games and the geographical isolation of the team within the new USL PRO League. In short, they didn’t see Central Texas as the right market for the team and their future plans.”

“Together with the City of Orlando, the new owners approached us about relocating the franchise to Central Florida. As much as we would have loved to keep the Aztex here, it’s proven impossible to find local business leaders who are willing to invest alongside us and who believed in this market.”

The team will relocate in time for the beginning of the 2011 season and will play in the new USL PRO League.  Head Coach Adrian Heath and all the retained players will be making the move with the team.

“This is a very, very bittersweet decision for us. The fans in Austin have given us fantastic backing and fully deserve pro soccer. I know many of our fans and their families personally and they will know that our decision to relocate has been taken with a very heavy heart. I know many people will be bitterly disappointed but we have been left with no local options of backing.”

“I would like to thank all the loyal Aztex fans for their support over the past three years. However, the new investors made it very difficult for us to turn down their offer. They bring much needed additional capital, expertise and connections. They have plans to add another professional sports team to the franchise which will give us year round revenue potential. Their goal is to build up the soccer operations so that we can pursue an MLS franchise in the next few years.”

13 Responses
  1. smatthew permalink
    October 25, 2010

    So from this part of the press release, “and the geographical isolation of the team within the new USL-Pro League” means that the image of an Austin player in the early info released of USL-PRO wasn’t a mistake?

  2. Jay permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Good work in finding this out earlier than everyone an dreporting it Brian! Sad to have to lose Austin, a potential soccer city in the making. Orlando won’t last that long and adding another “sports team” already suggests this is a big mess in Central Florida waiting to happen. Hard enough to start one club, try two at the same time in a fairweather market during bad economic times!

  3. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 25, 2010

    And there goes Rochester!

    http://www.uslsoccer.com/home/476335.html

  4. Ali permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Disgusting.

    However, it it true they were completely isolated.

    Nonetheless, reprehensible the way they treated the fans at the end.

  5. Bob permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Unless they all take a pay cut no way Aztex players all make the move to Orlando.

    D2 D3 salaries

  6. JXU permalink
    October 25, 2010

    What’s a jilted D2 fan to do?

    1. Stay loyal to the club that is no longer loyal to them?

    2. Shift support to the nearest MLS franchise that is 3-4 hours away?

    3. Or give up interest in U.S. soccer altogether?

    This is what I’m asking myself this afternoon.

  7. Strikers Return permalink
    October 25, 2010

    JXU: How far away is San Antonio? If the USSF lets up on the guidelines for the first couple of years, NASL, with fan support, might be able to survive. But they will have to waive especially the US 75% requirement as right now they NEED Puerto Rico and Edmonton playing next year along with Montreal to have any hope of a league. Couple those with the Strikers, Tampa, and Carolina for sure, and then you have to do some serious hoping for probably St. Louis and Minnesota to be able to stay afloat. Austin and Rochester self-relegating to D3 has severely hurt NASL, and more importantly, the future of D2 in this country. It don’t look good right now.

  8. JXU permalink
    October 25, 2010

    It is about 2 hours.

    I’m not feeling very optimistic about S.A.’s viability, though. If one of the wealthiest men in world soccer (which is who Rawlins is; google it if you doubt me) can’t stomach bankrolling D2 soccer in central Texas for more than 2 years, I fear S.A. wouldn’t last more than a year, if they do succeed in getting their team off the ground. ** I hope I am wrong.**

    The weird thing is there was never any hint, at all, about Rawlins havingany heartburn about a long-term investment in Austin, which is what makes this whole business so shocking to us Austin fans. Things with the Aztex seemed to be heading in the direction they had envisioned. It leads me to suspect that there was something else driving this (such as D2 going dark next season).

  9. Strikers Return permalink
    October 25, 2010

    I don’t know, I think Rawlins must have known his lean either way would be an influence on Clark in Rochester, and also go a long way toward showing us how things would begin to play out as a whole for both D2 and D3. At this point the only hope for D2 is USSF lending a lot of support, mainly in the way of waivers from its new requirements, to the NASL in order to give them the best possible chance of gathering together what they have left and pushing forward.

    I think it is more likely that Rawlins was talked into this move by Donner and others with USL. There can’t be anyone with even half a brain thinking they are going to be profitable in D2 soccer in this country anytime soon, in Austin, Orlando, Rochester, or anywhere else. There just isn’t enough support for it outside of very small pockets currently, and imagine that – the places where there was, they now have MLS teams instead of D2 ones.

    I don’t think the be all and end all of most soccer fans’ dreams are a D2 franchise. Most of us wouldn’t mind seeing a very successful D2 franchise segway to an MLS franchise, even if it takes some time, a la Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Montreal. But there has to be a stable foundation to build from. USL has had YEARS worth of opportunities to build that foundation and has outside of the Pacific NW teams (who honesty would probably compel them to say they succeeded despite the USL, rather than because of them) has failed miserably.

    Pulling back and focusing on D3 and PDL (D4) was ABSOLUTELY the right thing for USL to do. But manipulating and back door dealing to try and kill the NASL before it has even gotten a chance to get off the ground was just plain spiteful, and only accomplishes one thing – killing any hopes of a real soccer pyramid in this country like there is in the rest of the world. Their prime business strategy doesn’t seem at all focused on building their organizations on the D3 level. It’s simply to create whatever havoc it can in hopes of pushing NASL off the cliff so they can puff out their chest and say, look at us, we’re the “top” league below MLS!

    I’m not saying the NASL was a lock to make it work. But hell, given the overwhelming failure rate of D2 with USL at the helm, it was certainly time enough to give someone else a shot at it.

  10. JXU permalink
    October 25, 2010

    The Aztex site seems to have deleted all of their content, or they are having technical issues.

  11. October 25, 2010

    Actually it was Smatthew. Things were not at all decided at that point and time. USL Did a number of promotions calling all their D3 and D2 teams USL Pro meaning all their professional teams before they named D3 USL Pro.

  12. Holly permalink
    October 25, 2010

    As a fan I’m disgusted, and I think Phil Rawlins is making a huge mistake. Orlando sucks, have fun!

  13. October 25, 2010

    As an Aztex fan, and leader of the only supporters group the team had, I’m sick. The way we were treated was inexcusable. There is a right way to do business and a wrong way to do business, and Phil Rawlins chose the wrong way.

    I’m not saying he had to stay in Austin and keep losing money. I am saying that if he’d reached out to the supporters when they knew they needed more money, we could’ve helped (brought even more people in, raised cash ourselves, funding scheme). Then to take the team to another city and not even contact the supporters group himself?!?! Pathetic. This is no way to treat supporters who were with you from January 2008 when you started. Who you called upon, and we answered, to make the game day experience something special. Hey Phil! I don’t recall seeing anyone other than Chantico’s Army consistently marching to House Park, singing and chanting to support our boys.

    Although the news that Adrian Heath will be going also hurts, it’s more as I will not have him to chat with on a regular basis. I wish him and the players, all of whom I know personally, the best of luck.

    Finally, Brian, thank you. I know this story was hard for you to report. We’ve exchange emails a lot in the last 4 days. You’ve been helpful to me and the Army from day 1, and we thank you for it. The fact that it caused you so much distress is why we count you as one of us (big since you’re a MN supporter). Keep up the good work.

    To every fan out there, thank you for your support. I’ve had notes from Miami, Vancouver, Tampa, St. Louis, Austin, and yes, even Mr. Rawlins’ own Stoke-on-the-Trent, supporting the Aztex to stay in Austin. I’ve read them all, and will respond to them all.

    I’m now off to be with my brothers in soccer.

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