EDINBURG, RGV – Edinburg city leaders say they would like to host UT-Rio Grande Valley’s football program, if one is created, and have identified a possible stadium.
Mayor Richard Garcia told reporters Thursday that hosting a UTRGV football team would fit in with Edinburg’s goal of becoming a major destination city in the region. He said Edinburg city officials have met with the consultancy firm hired by UTRGV to explore the idea of a university football team.
“We’re working with the university to try to bring football to our university. Mark my words, that’s going to happen and that’s going to be right here, hopefully,” Garcia said, from the podium, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new customs facility at South Texas International Airport.
Asked after the ribbon-cutting ceremony about the possibility of Edinburg being the home of a UTRGV football team, Garcia said: “Actually, the city just met with the consultants that were hired by UTRGV recently so that they would know our position; the community’s position and whether they would support that sort of thing.”
Garcia said it would “make a lot of sense” to increase size of H-E-B Park soccer stadium so that it would be big enough for football. “I would guess, what makes a lot of sense, with those discussions going on, is that the soccer stadium could become a bowl that seats 24,000 people and that would be the new stadium for a new football team.”
Garcia was quick to point out that nothing has been decided by UTRGV. “These are just talks. They haven’t said whether there’s going to be football or whether it’s going to be in Edinburg. This is us proposing, offering options,” Garcia told reporters.
Gus Garcia, executive director of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, confirmed that the soccer stadium, which is the future home of Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, can be expanded to seat 24,000. He said this would make the stadium a great place for large outdoor concerts.
“There are 9,700 seats in the stands, and another five to six thousand on the field for outdoor events and concerts. So you’re looking at close to 16,000 people. It has expansion implications for 24,000 seats in the event that there will be a football program,” Gus Garcia said. “The requirements would be to have 24,000 seats. We have the capacity to do so. That’ll put you at 30,000 total seating for a live, outdoor concert venue which is significant. It is something we haven’t seen (in the Valley) before.”
Gus Garcia confirmed discussions are taking place with UTRGV’s consultants about Edinburg housing a football stadium.
“The people from the university, the people from the football feasibility study committee and the consultants are meeting every leader here in the Rio Grande Valley,” Gus Garcia said. “They are meeting with all the leaders, all the officials, all the stakeholders. And so, Edinburg is obviously one of the entities that will be giving input… to see what the possibility of bringing a football program to our region of the Valley would be. They (the university) are very clear that they want this to be a Valley initiative so it’s exciting.”
Last month, Patrick Gonzales, UTRGV’s assistant vice president of university marketing and communications, announced that College Sports Solutions “will work with the football feasibility committee, which is being chaired by legendary football coach Mack Brown, to develop a recommendation to UTRGV Director of Athletics Chris King. King will then make the final recommendation to President Guy Bailey.”
Gonzales said College Sports Solutions will take into account all factors in the feasibility study, including how much support there is in the community, potential infrastructure and funding models. He said the consultants would also look at NCAA requirements for football programs at both the FCS and FBS levels. UTRGV is paying the consultant group $100,000 for the overall study, which includes travel expenses.
“We’re happy to get this next step in the process completed, and we look forward to the collaboration between College Sports Solutions and the football feasibility committee,” King said. “This consultant group has extensive experience in this area and has conducted similar studies for other athletics programs.”
UTRGV first announced in February that it was conducting a feasibility study to see if a football program should be developed. Its football feasibility committee comprises university staff, faculty and students, community leaders, and special advisers.
RGV FC Toros
Also on Thursday, RGV FC Toros announced it is partnering with H-E-B for the naming rights to its soccer stadium. RGV FC President Bert Garcia said the club has agreed a five-year deal with the supermarket chain.
“We are thrilled H-E-B has made a commitment to RGV Toros, to the city of Edinburg, and more importantly the Rio Grande Valley,” Bert Garcia said. He predicted Major League Soccer and top Mexican soccer teams would play exhibition games there. “This will be the best stadium in the United Soccer League and the future home,” he said.
RGV FC Toros is currently playing its first season in the United Soccer League.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia. He is pictured giving interviews at South Texas International Airport. (Photo: RGG/Ena Capucion)
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series about economic growth in Edinburg, Texas. Part two, focusing on South Texas International Airport, will be published tomorrow.
Editor’s Note: Business reporter Ena Capucion contributed to the above story.