The Tulsa Athletics announced Thursday they've joined the National Premier Soccer League, and will begin play next month at the old Drillers Stadium.
Before a packed and boisterous room, the owners of Tulsa's newest sports franchise made their public debut. The Tulsa Athletics are bringing outdoor soccer back to Tulsa.
"I couldn't be more excited. It's a lifelong dream of mine to bring soccer back to Tulsa," said co-owner Sonny Dalesandro.
Dalesandro and co-owner Dr. Tommy Kern grew up playing soccer in Tulsa, and are diehard fans of the old Tulsa Roughnecks, who disbanded almost 30 years ago.
They say the only place they wanted the home games to be held was the old Drillers Stadium at 15th and Harvard.
"We love the sport, we love the city. We really want to make something happen here, and when we had the chance to renovate and use the old Drillers Stadium, we jumped at the chance," Kern said.
After the Drillers moved to a new facility downtown in 2009, Drillers Stadium has been sitting virtually empty. No one used it in 2010, it hosted a baseball training camp in 2011 but it was empty again last year.
Expo Square said the Athletics ownership is paying $5,500 a month to rent the stadium. They're also paying for renovations, updates and utilities.
Kern and Dalesandro said they're putting the box seats on the field, close to the action. They also plan on a beer garden and two special play areas for the kids in the old center and right fields.
They said they hope the experience of an outdoor soccer match means as much to the kids of today as it did when they were kids themselves.
"It's one of those things where, I think people growing up from Tulsa will walk into the stadium and you get a sense of excitement just walking out over the field," Kern said.
Tickets go on sale beginning this Saturday. They'll cost $5 for general admission and $10 for reserved seating.
The men behind the Athletics say the whole point of fielding the team is to build it into a franchise worthy of Major League Soccer.
They point out that four of the newer and more successful clubs in Major League Soccer are teams that started playing in lower divisions and moved up thanks to tremendous fan support.
The Tulsa Roughnecks, which were members of the North American Soccer League, played their home games at what was then known as Skelly Stadium at the University of Tulsa. The team began play in 1978 and lasted through 1984, when the NASL folded.
The Roughnecks were one of the most popular teams in the league, with attendance averaging about 15,000 spectators per home game.
The team won the Soccer Bowl in 1983, which was held in Vancouver that year, and was treated to a hero's welcome when it returned to Tulsa a few days later. You can watch our story about that event by clicking the link below: