FLINT – Kettering University has already done so many great things for Flint’s legendary Atwood Stadium, and they’re far from done. Kettering, which purchased Atwood from the City in 2013, has completely renovated the facility in recent years and has now landed the Michigan Bucks’ soccer team of USL (United Soccer League) League Two.
The Bucks join a recent resurgence of sports teams moving into the city. Sharing Atwood with the Bucks is Genesee FC, a women’s pro soccer team who moved into Atwood in the spring. Across town at the Dort Federal Event Center, the Ontario Hockey League’ Flint Firebirds also share their home digs with the Global Women’s Basketball Association’s Flint Monarchs.
“This is a fantastic day for soccer in Michigan, especially in the city of Flint,” said Bucks’ owner Dan Duggan. “The Bucks success of winning on the field is second to none. We’re the only team in the history of amateur soccer in the world that has defeated two MLS (Major League Soccer) teams. For those of you unfamiliar with soccer, that would be the equivalent of the (Flint) Firebirds defeating the Detroit Red Wings. We have played a total of seven MLS teams and our record is 2-4-1.”
Of course, a familiar face was involved in the project. Helping not only bring the Bucks’ to town, he will also serve as team president is former Firebirds’ president Costa Papista. Papista was instrumental in bringing the Firebirds to town, as well as other Michigan hockey franchises the Saginaw Spirit and Port Huron Prowlers.
“When Costa Popista approached me and said ‘We’re going to have a franchise in Flint,’ I was guiding him on how to get into the league and the dos and don’ts,” added Duggan. “One of the questions he asked was ‘Would the Bucks ever consider moving to Flint?”
Before relocating, a facility would obviously be required. Many who grew up in Flint have fond memories of Atwood, but prior to the help of Kettering University and the former Atwood Stadium Authority – now known as the Friends of Atwood – the 1929-built, 11,000-seat stadium had fallen on some hard times.
“We went and looked at Atwood, and when I heard Atwood, I’ve got to be honest – I thought about the last time I played there 20 years ago and it wasn’t a good feeling,” continued Duggan. “But when I came back – that’s not the Atwood I remember. That’s a beautiful facility. What you’ve done here and the donations and the commitment to this community is absolutely second to none.”
As for Papista, his long history of bringing successful franchises to local towns throughout the state only continues.
“I’m really excited to partner with Dan,” said Papista. “Dan has a real legacy and a first-class organization. Everyone in soccer knows the Michigan Bucks from coast-to-coast. Being able to land a franchise of that caliber for Flint and Genesee County is absolutely fantastic.”
The Bucks began play in 1996 in Saginaw as the Mid-Michigan Bucks. Throughout their successful history, they’ve also had stints in Detroit and Pontiac. Amongst several other accomplishments, they’ve won three North American Championships in the former Professional Development League.
A layout of what gameday may look like was also released with on-field suites and the potential for a bar, beer garden and food trucks. The season runs May through July and the playoffs go July through August. Each team plays 14 games in the regular season.