January 17 – The Las Vegas football (soccer) market is heating up. The MLS are expected to announce a franchise in the city once an ownership group is formalised, third tier league NISA last week announced the admission of Las Vegas Legends, and this week Las Vegas Lights, playing in the second tier US Championship, have a new high profile owner.
Former Major League Baseball star José Bautista has become the club’s investor, and will take on the role of chairman and governor of the club.
“As a soccer fan and former professional athlete, I am excited to be involved with the world’s game,” said Bautista.
“Since my retirement from professional baseball, I have witnessed the incredible growth of soccer in the United States and particularly with the USL, which I’ve been following closely for a couple years. I look forward to sharing my love of sports with the Vegas soccer community. Vegas is the place to be and has emerged as a big professional sports town, and I will do everything I can to push this club forward.”
Bautista is not your typical sports superstar who comes to the business world with a name and a fortune made playing his sport. He has built a business portfolio working with major brands including Audi, Hublot, Coca-Cola, TD Bank and New Balance, as well as an investor in businessesincluding Marucci Sports, Canada Goose and Endy Sleep.
Born in the Dominican Republic he founded the Bautista Family Education Fund in 2011, which provides support and assistance to student-athletes aspiring to attend university programs in the United States and Canada.
“Throughout my playing career, I recognized the importance of giving back in meaningful, intentional ways,” Bautista said. “Likewise, as an owner, I am committed to having a real impact on the local community and fostering a deep connection with the people of Las Vegas.”
Lights FC debuted in the USL Championship in 2018 and plays at Cashman Field in downtown Las Vegas.
“José’s vision and values align perfectly with our league’s ambitions and the positive impact our clubs are having in their local communities,” said USL Deputy CEO and Chief Real Estate Officer Justin Papadakis.
“José is the latest in a recent series of world-class athletes to invest in USL clubs, a clear indication of our league’s increased prominence in the professional sports industry and the real value proposition of investing in soccer today.”
Bautista scored 344 home runs in his 15 year MLB career, playing for eight clubs, most notably the Toronto Blue Jays. He was named an MLB All-Star six years in a row from 2010-15 and twice led the majors in home runs.
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