Last week I posted a series of tweets on my personal Twitter and Facebook pages lamenting the complete radio silence from the new owner of Dayton Dynamo FC regarding their announced move from the semi-pro National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) to a fully professional league. On my Facebook page, several folks implored me to send my abbreviated thoughts to the Dayton Daily News as an editorial. However, given that they tend to really only cover big-name programs (Bengals, Reds, Dragons, UD Mens’ Basketball) in any significant depth, I figured that such a submission would be futile. So instead, my expanded thoughts are coming here.
Dayton Dynamo FC, a soccer club that I had been a big supporter (soccer lingo for fan) of for their 2 years in existence (2016 & 2017), announced in November 2017 that their owner, David Satterwhite, had sold controlling interest of the club to wealthy Cincinnati businessman, Jared Davis. Davis is most-known for his ownership of CNG Financial, the parent company of numerous payday lending stores. The motivation to sell is simple.
At the time, Dayton Dynamo FC was a semi-pro club. David Satterwhite had aspirations to make the Dynamo fully professional. And as anyone knows, it takes a lot of money and resources to properly run a pro sports team. On top of that, the United States Soccer Federation requires that any club competing at the pro level have a controlling owner with a net worth of at least 10 million dollars (whether that requirement is a good idea or not is a can of worms I don’t care to open right now). Bringing Davis in as the majority owner clears that hurdle with no problems.
Sounds great so far, right? However, in the November press release, the organization stated, “While the club focuses its efforts on bringing professional soccer to Dayton, it will be on hiatus from competition.” Jared Davis was further quoted in the release regarding this, “Rather than expend the considerable effort required to run an amateur team in 2018, we are going to exert all of our resources and effort on realizing the goal of having a pro team.” To repeat, they’re taking 2018 off with the idea of coming back in full force in 2019 as a pro team.
This was the giant red flag that I should have seen from miles away. Having been around minor league sports, at least locally, since 2005, I can tell you that there are a handful of ways that you can tell that a sports club at this level is done. And a team announcing that they’re “taking the year off” is a surefire sign that a team is gone, never to see the light of day. The minor league landscape is littered with examples of such. However, something felt different about the situation with the Dayton Dynamo.
From the outside looking in, it didn’t look like a team that was struggling to stay afloat. Its presentation was very professional from start to finish. From the first match to the last. There were no rumors of the team not paying its bills, players, or staffers. The ownership was solid, both before and after the sale. There was nothing about the organization that suggested that they had no plans on coming back in 2018. Plus, and this is my personal bias, I am also part of the Gem City Squadron, the supporters group for the Dynamo. We are naturally excited about all things Dynamo. There weren’t any other warning signs around. I had on the rose-colored glasses of fandom on. I had no reason to believe that the new ownership wouldn’t make good on their intentions to make the Dynamo pro in 2019.
Except after the announcement, there was a whole lot of nothing. Minimal social media interaction. No announcements or releases regarding progress. No campaigns to keep the brand active in the minds of the folks of Dayton. No signs of actual life beyond than the occasional “like” on twitter of someone showing off some Dynamo gear or such. The last indication of any kind of the Dynamo’s 2019 plans was a tweet on April 14th, 2018 saying this:
Be patient. Hoping to have some news soon.
— Dayton Dynamo FC (@DaytonDynamo) April 14, 2018
Five months since then, and we have a whole lot of nothing. The “we’re taking the year off” curse has apparently claimed another victim. But personally, this one stings a little more that the others.
I’ve had to deal with the loss of minor league sports teams that I followed in the last 12 years before. When the Dayton Bombers hockey team folded in 2009, it was disappointing, but ultimately I moved on. The same thing happened when the Miami Valley Silverbacks indoor football team, in the time they played out of Hobart Arena, ceased to play regularly, also in 2009. A smattering of other teams came and went, and similarly, I was disappointed, but ultimately I moved on. The one thing that separated my experience with the Dynamo from all the other former teams is something unique to the world of soccer: Supporter culture.
As Alexi Lalas states in a well-known MLS commercial, soccer doesn’t have fans, it has supporters. These are fans that sing, cheer, chant, bang drums, wave flags, occasionally light smoke bombs, and basically create a festive atmosphere at games with the intention of motivating their club and intimidating their opponents. It’s also incredibly fun to take part in. I can safely say that I enjoyed supporting the Dynamo most in their 2017 campaign with their supporters’ group, the Gem City Squadron.
The pinnacle of this experience, however, were two “away days” during the Dynamo’s playoff run that season. First in Erie, Pennsylvania against the Erie Commodores. On that trip, 3 other Squadron members and I crammed into my tiny Toyota Corolla and took the 4+ hour drive to Gannon University to support the Dynamo. A goal in the 90th minute was all Dayton needed to secure the win. That goal, plus the celebration after the referee blew the final whistle, was truly a euphoric experience. The following week, six of us made the trip to Hamtramck, Michigan and Keyworth Stadium, home of the (in)famous Detroit City Football Club, where the Dynamo played in the regional Semifinals against AFC Ann Arbor. There, the tables were turned, as Ann Arbor scored the only goal late in the match to take the win.
But now it’s gone. All gone. No more supporting my team with folks I met and became (I hope) friends with over the last couple years. Yes we can still talk and chat outside of that, and we did go on a road trip back to Detroit City earlier this year, but it’s nowhere near the same when we aren’t supporting OUR club. And that, more than anything else, is why the apparent end of the Dayton Dynamo stings so much more than any other team I became a fan of over the years. Nothing can replace that feeling.
Give credit to former Dynamo sole owner David Satterwhite, though. He did what he thought was best to make the club bigger and better by selling controlling interest of the club. And further to his credit, he seems just as frustrated as the rest of us, probably more so, with the lack of development. Even going so far as to say:
Sorry guys been off twitter for a while, just seeing your tweet. I still have nothing. Had I known it was going to turn out like this I would have never sold it.
— Dayv (@dayvsomething) September 26, 2018
No announcement has been made regarding the Dynamo’s 2019 plans, if there are any. But given the ideal amount of time it takes to hype and market a professional sports team, the longer they wait without so much as a peep, the more unlikely it seems they will make it to 2019. Or any time for that matter. We can always hope, but even hope has its limits…