Under overcast skies as gale-force winds blew across the bay, a group of soccer players from as near to home as Somers Point and as far afield as South America and Europe ran drills and bantered on Atlantic City turf yesterday. The resort town’s only professional sports team will step out onto Stockton University’s field on Saturday May 5 to face the Nebraska Bugeaters, for the debut match of their 14-game season in the National Premier Soccer League.
The players’ list for Atlantic City FC reflects a diversity of ages, cultures and experience that would seem hard to rival. Owners Andrew Weilgus and Nick Bilotta are hopeful that by blending local players with visitors, they can appeal to different communities in the Atlantic City area. The owners also hope to capitalize on the lack of competition when it comes to pro sports in Atlantic City.
“Nick and I decided it was absurd AC did not have (a) single sports team despite 20 million tourists and a world-wide brand so we decided to undertake the task of creating one,” Weilgus told a news site earlier this year. Weilgus is also keen to encourage the players to be active in the community. Several of them have been spotted at free community yoga classes at The Leadership Studio on Tennessee Ave and Weilgus told us we can expect more community activities as the season stretches into the summer.
There has been some griping from the public about the fact that Atlantic City’s newest team will play its matches at Stockton University in Galloway, some 20 minutes away from the city. Chris Ross, director of development for the team, said they are interested in playing at Bader Field, where a baseball stadium used by Atlantic City’s last sports team currently sits unoccupied. (City officials last year, under the guidance of the state overseers, put out a request-for-proposals for the site, but have yet to commit to any plans). But for now, the team will be visible practicing at fields in the city, as well as at various social events for fans in Atlantic City have also been planned. Members of the public are also invited to come and meet the team ahead of home games at Stockton.
You can find more details about Atlantic City FC’s schedule and buy tickets on their site. Doors (and food) will open for Saturday’s match at Stockton University’s soccer field at 4 pm (kickoff is at 6 pm) and the team will be offering a youth clinic from 4.45 pm.
And watch Route 40’s interview with team members in English and Spanish here: