A/N Battery owner Eric Bowman took time to sit down with the Official Supporters’ Club, The Regiment, earlier this week, and was kind enough to give some insight into things that have gone on on and off the pitch so far this year.
In a two-part series with new Battery owner Eric Bowman, we take a look at the some of the changes happening, some very noticeable and some not so noticeable. In this first part, we ask Eric a few questions and find out a bit about his vision for the Charleston Battery. In the second part, we’ll discuss those changes more in-depth.
When the sale of the Charleston Battery was announced in February, it came as a shock to some long-time fans. Tony Bakker help start the club in 1993. Before the 1994 World Cup, before MLS began in 1996. In 1999, Tony build the first privately-funded Soccer Specific Stadium. The Battery has a long legacy, with four championships, a US Open Cup final appearance and a passionate fan base.
But anytime there is change, people react differently and the sale was no different: excitement, trepidation, uncertainty, speculation. Rumors about the club’s direction and future started. Eric Bowman was gracious enough to answer some those concerns and met with a group of supporters from the Regiment, Queen Anne’s Revenge, and La Barra this week and we were shown that a lot is going on, both the obvious and behind the scenes and the club is heading in an exciting direction.
When did you first get into soccer and how?
I played growing up and always had an appreciation for the sport. Now I have kids who play, so I’m around the game constantly. Obviously it’s a big part of my life both personally and professionally, but I started out as a fan of soccer and my role with the Battery doesn’t change that.
I know you have been a huge sponsor of the Battery for the last three years, what prompted you to buy the Battery?
When you look at the Battery and see the history and sustained success of the team on and off the field, then realize that the Club has reached such a level based on the vision of an amazing entrepreneur from 20+ years ago, you have to see potential. I respect what the previous ownership did for the fans and the community, but we’re excited to take the Club and the stadium to new places and break the mold of the status quo a little bit. With the capabilities and resources we have at B Sports, we are working to turn MUSC Health Stadium into one of the most intimate soccer venues in the country; and I think we can do that and still respect the established traditions of the Club.
What do you foresee in the Battery’s future and soccer in America?
We want to take the Battery as high as we can and we won’t put a limit on the possibilities. The long term goal is to turn Charleston into an MLS city. Obviously that’s a long way off, but we think it’s attainable. There’s talk of MLS expanding to Saint Louis, Sacramento, San Antonio etc. so the jump from USL to MLS is within our reach. If MLS wants to be in a particular market, the League will find a way to make it happen. Our job is to turn Charleston into a market that MLS wants to expand to. If we can leverage the sport’s growing popularity nationally and the dedicated local fan base that’s been here from the start with the improvements we’re making on the field and in the stadium, we’ll get there.
The score board is great; can we expect more improvements around the stadium?
The video board gives us the ability to interact with fans like we never have before. We’re changing the in-stadium experience and making it more interactive. We want to make fans a part of the team’s matches, instead of simply being spectators. The jumbotron gives us the ability to bring the fans closer to the players, coaches, front office staff and each other. It provides fans with an accessible feedback loop, which will help us improve the overall experience. When we have things fully integrated, fans will be able to order food from their seats, request what they want to see and hear in the stadium while at the game, and Stre.am live from their seats to the video board. We’re also revamping the Pub and working on plans to bring entertainment for young kids and young adults to the stadium on game days. This will likely not be done until next season.
Many expected a rise in cost of season and game day tickets. Can you explain some of the process of coming to that decision?
We’ve changed almost every aspect of what we do behind the scenes to put a product on the field on game day, so that’s going to lead to changes elsewhere. The front office understands that after 23 years with the previous ownership, the changes may be a bit shocking at first, but the increases are consistent with the improvements we’re making at the Club.
Any final words for the fans and supporters?
We’re appreciative of the support and want to continue to grow the Club together. The fans have been and will continue to be a huge part of what we’re doing and we need your help to reach the goals we’ve set. The existing fan base is incredibly loyal, we want to harness that passion and spread it as the Club expands and gains recognition nationally.