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Featured: Borja Angoitia, goalkeeper for the Rio Grande Valley Football Club Toros professional soccer team, helps defend against the Liga MX side C.F. Monterrey Rayados on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at the club’s new H-E-B Park for the venue’s inaugural game.

Photograph By DIEGO REYNA

H-E-B Park, a $16.8+ million sports and entertainment outdoor complex that features a 9,700 seat capacity soccer-specific stadium, has scored another major goal for its hometown with news that WalletHub, a national personal finance website, has named Edinburg as 2nd Best Small City for Soccer Fans for 2017, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. In addition, WalletHub rated Edinburg 29th best among all U.S. cities for soccer fans, an accomplishment that places it in the top 10 percent in the nation, among the cities involved in the study, for community involvement in that sport. “Once more, a national, independent, and very credible source has concluded what we know very well here at home – Edinburg has a very high quality-of-life to offer its citizens from all walks of life,” said Agustín García, Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. “We have one of the best public school systems in the state, we feature one of the largest University of Texas campuses, with its own School of Medicine, our hospital systems are nationally-ranked, and by the time 2017 is completed, the construction of new homes and businesses in Edinburg for the year is anticipated to pass $200 million.”  The Edinburg EDC is the jobs-creation arm of Edinburg Mayor Richard García and the Edinburg City Council, which includes Mayor Pro Tem J.R. Betancourt, Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr. Councilmember Richard Molina, and Councilmember David Torres. The Edinburg EDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mayor Richard García as President, Harvey Rodríguez, Jr. as Vice President, Elías Longoria, Jr. as Secretary/Treasurer, and Richard Ruppert and Dr. Peter Dabrowski as Members. Mayor Richard García and Edinburg EDC Executive Director Agustín García, Jr. are not related.

The state-of-the-art H-E-B Park in Edinburg has many amenities, including a full-service restaurant, executive lounges, a sports bar, and 33 suites. Suites include VIP amenities and a 16-seat capacity. Park grounds include practice fields for 7v7 and 5v5 soccer, various bench areas with picnic-sized tables, a playground, and an amphitheater with a capacity for more than 2,000 individuals. H-E-B Park hosts top-of-the-line professional soccer, musical concerts, high school sporting events, and other forms of entertainment. The stadium, which is modeled after the Houston Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium, is located at the intersection of East Freddy González Drive and South Raúl Longoria Road.

Photo Courtesy RGV FC TOROS

“We are about three months away from opening the $88+ million Bert Ogden Arena, which will be the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex south of San Antonio, and people from all over the Valley, Texas, and the U.S. have a direct, nonstop way to get to Edinburg because we are served by Interstate Highway 69 and the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg. Those assets are just the tip of the iceberg of what makes our community a ‘Destination City’,” said Agustín García, Executive Director of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. “But most important, the vision of our elected, business and community leadership, and the amazing people of our community are who make Edinburg the American Success story that it has become.” Even the symbol of the hometown professional soccer team, the Rio Grande Valley Football Club Toros, proudly portrays Edinburg’s and the Rio Grande Valley’s regional strengths, according to the team’s website, which explains, “The Toros’ logo follows the mold of a traditional soccer shield, but offers a twist with the addition of horns to allude to the Toros nickname. The stripes at the bottom of the shield represent the agriculture industry of the Rio Grande Valley, which historically bright trade and commerce to the region. The vertical lines at the top of the graphic represent the sun and Valley heat, while also reflecting an element of the Toros’ Major League Soccer single-affiliate Houston Dynamo’s logo.” H-E-B Park at all its amenities enables Edinburg to be a staple as an entertainment hub in the Rio Grande Valley, and considerably helps it in the city and Edinburg EDC leaderships’ efforts to market the community as a “Destination City”.

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Edinburg EDC: H-E-B Park scores another major goal for its hometown, as WalletHub names Edinburg 2nd Best Small City for Soccer Fans

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

H-E-B Park, a $16.8+ million sports and entertainment outdoor complex that features a 9,700 seat capacity soccer-specific stadium, has scored another major goal for its hometown with news that WalletHub, a national personal finance website, has named Edinburg as 2nd Best Small City for Soccer Fans for 2017, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

In addition, WalletHub rated Edinburg 29th best among all U.S. cities for soccer fans, an accomplishment that places it in the top 10 percent in the nation, among the cities involved in the study, for community involvement in that sport.

H-E-B Park is home to the Rio Grande Valley Football Club Toros, which is a member of the United Soccer League (USL).

H-E-B Park and the RGV FC Toros are privately-owned.

The RGV FC Toros serves as the development affiliate of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo. The USL is the strongest U.S. men’s professional soccer league below Major League Soccer (MLS), it features 24 teams in 2015 across the United States and Canada with multiple teams in all four time zones.

The Edinburg EDC is the jobs-creation arm of Edinburg Mayor Richard García and the Edinburg City Council, which includes Mayor Pro Tem J.R. Betancourt, Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr. Councilmember Richard Molina, and Councilmember David Torres.

The Edinburg EDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mayor Richard García as President, Harvey Rodríguez, Jr. as Vice President, Elías Longoria, Jr. as Secretary/Treasurer, and Richard Ruppert and Dr. Peter Dabrowski as Members.

Mayor Richard García and Edinburg EDC Executive Director Agustín García are not related.

WalletHub’s analysis compared nearly 300 U.S. cities with professional or college soccer teams

“Americans finally have found their own soft spot for the world’s most beloved professional sport. After what seemed an eternity of lackluster popularity among U.S. fans, soccer — better known as ‘football’ to the international community — has gained the admiration and respect it is due here at home,” WalletHub announced. “To find the best places for loving on the world’s most favorite sport, WalletHub’s analysts compared nearly 300 U.S. cities with at least one college or professional soccer team across six divisions comprising 63 key metrics. The data set ranges from minimum season-ticket price for a game to stadium accessibility to number of championship wins.”

WalletHub found that H-E-B Park, which is located at 1616 S. Raúl  Longoria Road in east Edinburg, did well in other important rankings, including having the 4th largest stadium capacity in the United Soccer League (USL), and rating 6th best in USL fan engagement, 7th best in performance level of the team (Rio Grande Valley Football Club Toros), and 8th best in USL attendance.

“Once more, a national, independent, and very credible source has concluded what we know very well here at home – Edinburg has a very high quality-of-life to offer its citizens from all walks of life,” said Agustín García. “We have one of the best public school systems in the state, we feature one of the largest University of Texas campuses, with its own School of Medicine, our hospital systems are nationally-ranked, and by the time 2017 is completed, the annual construction of new homes and businesses in Edinburg is anticipated to pass $200 million.”

With more than 1.3 million residents, Valley has large followings for major sports

Edinburg has a significant potential fan base from which to draw professional soccer fans to H-E-B Park.

Edinburg’s position as one of the top two best communities for soccer fans is based on cities with populations of 100,000 and fewer. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Edinburg’s population as of July 1, 2016 was estimated at 87,650. The two other population groupings featured large cities (more than 300,000 people) and midsize cities (100,000 to 300,000 people).

Edinburg, which has the third-most number of residents in the Rio Grande Valley, also serves as the county seat for Hidalgo County, which is the most populated county (849,843 as of July 1, 2016) in the  four-county Rio Grande Valley, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Valley has an estimated population, as of July 1, 2016, of 1,356,910 (Hidalgo County, 849,843; Cameron County, 422,135; Starr County, 64,122; and Willacy County, 21,810).

In addition, two major Mexican cities, where soccer is a major national sport, are located just across the Texas-Mexico border from Hidalgo and Cameron counties, respectively: Reynosa, with an estimated population of almost 613,000, and Matamoros, with an estimated population of more than 520,000.

Edinburg citizens, H-E-B Park, RGV FC Toros, other assets helping make Edinburg a “Destination City”

“We are about three months away from opening the $88+ million Bert Ogden Arena, which will be the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex south of San Antonio, and people from all over the Valley, Texas, and the U.S. have a direct, nonstop way to get to Edinburg because we are served by Interstate Highway 69 and the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg. Those assets are just the tip of the iceberg of what makes our community a ‘Destination City’,” said Agustín García, Executive Director of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. “But most important, the vision 0f our elected, business, and community leadership, and the amazing people of our community are who make Edinburg the American Success Story it has become.”

The state-of-the-art H-E-B Park has many other amenities, including a full-service restaurant, executive lounges, a sports bar, and 33 suites. Suites include VIP amenities and a 16-seat capacity. Park grounds include practice fields for 7v7 and 5v5 soccer, various bench areas with picnic-sized tables, a playground, and an amphitheater with a capacity for over 2,000 individuals. H-E-B Park hosts top-of-the-line professional soccer, musical concerts, high school sporting events, and other forms of entertainment.

Even the symbol of the hometown professional soccer team, the RGV FC Toros, proudly portrays Edinburg’s and the Rio Grande Valley’s regional strengths, according to the team’s website, which explains, “The Toros’ logo follows the mold of a traditional soccer shield, but offers a twist with the addition of horns to allude to the Toros nickname. The stripes at the bottom of the shield represent the agriculture industry of the Rio Grande Valley, which historically brought trade and commerce to the region. The vertical lines at the top of the graphic represent the sun and Valley heat, while also reflecting an element of the Toro’s MLS single-affiliate Houston Dynamo’s logo.”

H-E-B Park and all its amenities enables Edinburg to be a staple as an entertainment hub in the Rio Grande Valley.

H-E-B Park, which also hosts many different and major events, such as fairs and concerts, first made big news in the soccer world on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, when plans for the soccer stadium were unveiled with the announcement that the United Soccer League (USL) awarded its 25th franchise to Alonzo Cantú, owner of the NBA Development League Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

The RGV FC Toros professional soccer club serves as the hybrid affiliate of the Houston Dynamo.

The stadium, which is modeled after the Houston Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium, is located at the intersection of East Freddy González Drive and South Raúl Longoria Road.

“The USL is proud and excited to welcome RGV FC Toros to our league,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said during the summer 2015 announcement. “We have great confidence in Alonzo Cantú, who has a proven track record in business and professional sports in the Rio Grande Valley. This vibrant economic market with a population of 1.3 million enjoys a long tradition in soccer. RGV FC is a first-class sports organization that will treat the passionate south Texas soccer fans to a state-of-the-art 9,700-seat soccer-specific stadium which surely will become a source of pride for the region.”

The RGV FC Toros’ majority owner, Cantú, is no stranger to the hybrid affiliation model.

Over 10 seasons, he has overseen the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, which is one of the National Basketball Association G-League’s most successful franchises.

The RGV Vipers professional basketball team also will be the main tenant at the Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg.

In 2009, Cantú and the Houston Rockets pioneered the concept of hybrid affiliation in the NBA. The Rio Grande Valley Vipers boast two championships (2010 and 2013), one coach of the year award winner and two MVPs. They also rank near the top of the league in average attendance, and the front office has received multiple league awards.

According to Wikipedia, the NBA G League is the National Basketball Association‘s official minor league basketball organization. The league was known as the National Basketball Development League (NBDL) from 2001 to 2005, and the NBA Development League (NBA D-League) from 2005 until 2017.

The league started with eight teams until NBA commissioner David Stern announced a plan to expand the NBA D-League to fifteen teams and develop it into a true minor league farm system, with each NBA D-League team affiliated with one or more NBA teams in March 2005. At the conclusion of the 2013–14 NBA season, 33% of NBA players had spent time in the NBA D-League, up from 23% in 2011. As of the 2017–18 season, the league consists of 26 teams, all of which are either single-affiliated or owned by an NBA team.

For the 2017–18 season, the league rebranded to become the NBA G League as part of a multi-year partnership with Gatorade.

NCAA Division 1 soccer programs at UTRGV also contribute to fan base

Also adding to the popularity of soccer in Edinburg is the men’s and women’s soccer teams at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

All of the university’s sports teams, which play their home games in Edinburg, are NCAA Division 1 caliber, which is the highest-level of competition.

UTRGV’s sports teams are members of the Western Athletic Conference, which also includes: CSU Bakersfield of Bakersfield, California; Chicago State; Grand Canyon of Phoenix, Arizona; University of Missouri – Kansas City; New Mexico State of Las Cruces, New Mexico; Seattle University; and Utah Valley University of Orem, Utah.

According to the UTRGV sports website, its men’s and women’s NCAA Division 1 soccer program also features a multi-purpose, multi-million dollar complex:

• The $4.55 million UTRGV Soccer and Track & Field Complex opened in October 2014 to host the first season of women’s soccer and then, in 2015, the return of men’s soccer. The complex also hosted the 2017 WAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships;

• The UTRGV Soccer and Track & Field Complex is located on the west end of campus. The complex had a seating capacity of 555 in 2014 and has grown to 1,250 in 2015 to meet ticket demands. Additionally, UTRGV Athletics has installed lights to allow for night matches in 2015;

• Once all phases of construction are complete, the complex will include not only the main field, but two practice fields as well. The main area will have permanent concession stands, offices, training rooms, locker rooms, team rooms, and a press box; and

• The initial soccer field is of exceptional quality. As such, care is being taken to protect the high quality of the playing surface from adverse effects of extreme weather and wear-and-tear.Despite these precautions, the complex hosts and will host numerous outside events, including professional matches, exhibitions, camps, clinics, and high school competitions.

WalletHub: Recent development suggests soccer is headed in the right direction

In judging soccer in the United States to be a major sport with a high chance of continue growth, WalletHub offered these historical and financial observations:

• Much of the credit for the sport’s growing domestic acceptance goes to the U.S. Women’s National Team, who made us proud with its record-breaking victory in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Part of the glory is owed to COPA América Centenario, the world’s oldest soccer competition, held the following year on U.S. turf for the first time in its 100-year history; and

• But a more recent development suggests the sport is headed in the right direction. After only five months since its inception, Atlanta United, one of two new soccer clubs that formed in early 2017, broke the average per-game home attendance record — for every major sport except the National Football League. Whether it’s poised to become Major League Soccer’s most valuable team, however, remains to be seen.

Today, the average MLS team is worth $223 million, up from $185 million in 2016.

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For more information on the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://edinburgedc.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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