Stadium site search, ticket prices among topics at Buffalo Pro Soccer town hall event

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — If there’s one thing Buffalo Pro Soccer officials want the community to know, it’s that the club intends to be “by Buffalo, for Buffalo.”

The slogan was mentioned a number of times during Thursday’s town hall event at The Banshee Irish Pub in downtown Buffalo, and even was inscribed on scarfs that were handed out to many of the over 100 supporters who turned out. The gathering is likely to be the first of many for the group headed by Peter Marlette Jr., who is seeking to bring a soccer team to Buffalo by 2026 that will compete in America’s second-highest men’s professional league, the USL Championship. Accompanying the men’s team would be a professional women’s squad, which would play in the USL Super League.

For Marlette, a Buffalo native and former pro player who previously oversaw USL League One club Union Omaha to two first-place finishes before leaving to pursue this effort, Thursday’s first town hall was a culmination of the backing he’s seen both in person and on social media.

“Seeing the community support, I expected it,” Marlette said. “The soccer community in Buffalo is ready for this and that’s why I was so excited to get here now and build this. This first town hall already is evidence of that, but the future ones I’m expecting more of the same.”

Narrowing down stadium search

As part of the event, Marlette took to the bar’s stage while donning a Buffalo Pro Soccer scarf, speaking to supporters and fielding questions for nearly an hour. He hit on a variety of hot topics regarding the club, including arguably the one most prominent on the mind of the community: where will the teams play?

Marlette said the group is down to four potential sites, all within the City of Buffalo, for a proposed 10,000-seat modular stadium that he believes can be entirely, if not largely, privately funded. He added that two of the sites are downtown, while the other two aren’t far outside the city center.

“I believe, honestly, any one of (the potential sites) the club would be successful at and would work,” Marlette said. “But we’ve got to make sure that it’s the right arrangement for the team and the right arrangement for this community, so we’re going to be very diligent about that as it progresses.”

Accessibility to the stadium was also a talking point, and Marlette assured supporters that three of the four sites could be easily accessed via public transportation, while he believed the fourth could have an NFTA bus line added nearby should it be chosen.

Peter Marlette Jr. speaks to a crowd of over 100 people at the first Buffalo Pro Soccer town hall. Photo: Adam Gorski/WIVB

‘Accessible’ ticket prices

For one of the first times since the project went public roughly five weeks ago, community members got a sense of what it would cost to get in the door for a Buffalo Pro Soccer match.

Marlette said he’s targeting the average ticket price for a match to be around $35, with cheaper fees for general admission available and also more expensive options for VIP sections and suites.

He reiterated that he wants the club to be “a gathering point for the community” and “accessible” to everyone, both through the stadium site as well as ticket costs.

“We want to cater to anybody who wants to watch professional soccer,” Marlette said.

Community-inspired team name and colors

Continuing to hit on the “by Buffalo, for Buffalo” slogan, Marlette said community feedback would be an important part of creating the club’s identity.

Marlette polled the audience for potential team name ideas toward the end of the town hall, with “Buffalo United” and “Nickel City FC” among roughly half a dozen names shouted out. He added that as things get closer to fruition, wider-scale public feedback on a name and colors will continue to be sought after.

For now, interacting with the club on social media, reaching out through its website or attending future town halls are the best ways for the public to have its voice heard.

And for those who yearned for the club to pay homage to the Buffalo Blizzard of the 1990s with its name, that does not appear to be in the cards. However, Marlette joked that a Blizzard-themed tribute night is a must.

Show me the money

As has been widely accepted from the start, financial backing from outside investors will be needed to get the club off the ground.

Arguably the biggest hurdle is finding a principal owner, as a USL Championship club requires one to own at least 35% of the team and have a net worth of approximately $30 million. That combined with stadium and other operational costs means the group’s work is cut out for them.

Marlette has repeatedly said he believes this is the perfect time for investors to get involved in soccer both in the U.S. and Buffalo, and his confidence remains strong that he can secure the necessary funds.

“I can’t give you too many specifics, but I will say yes, we’ve made a lot of progress in the funding of this team and securing additional ownership,” Marlette said. “Still out there raising money and having meetings every day with people who are excited about this project and have the type of funds to contribute to it.”

At one point during the town hall, Marlette mentioned Oakland Roots SC, a USL Championship club that raised over $3 million from crowdfunding, allowing donors to own a small share of the team. Supporters in attendance at The Banshee gave one of the loudest cheers of the night when asked if they would be willing to contribute in a similar way.

Marlette hinted that the search for investors is a constant endeavor, but fortunately for him, Thursday’s town hall added a new angle to his pitch.

“At 8 a.m. tomorrow, I’ve got an investor pitch with somebody that can make a big impact on this project,” Marlette said. “I get to tell that individual I budgeted for 60 people (at the town hall) and we just about doubled that. … I’ve already got a good story to tell investors, this is proof of concept.”

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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