By Bob Bonner - email
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - With time quickly running out on the chance to field a USL team for the 2010 season, WECT Sports has learned that a potential buyer has visited Wilmington for a tour of the Legion Stadium facilities and to speak with Chuck Sullivan about taking over the franchise.
Jon Berman would like to not only bring soccer back to Wilmington but keep the name of the franchise intact.
"Ultimately, the ability to continue professional soccer in Wilmington in 2010 and beyond will be a business decision. We want to ensure establishment of a strong foundation for a self-sustaining franchise." Mr. Berman added, "To this end, discussions regarding use of the Hammerheads brand are ongoing with the previous franchisee and should be resolved during the same time frame."
Matt Weibe, USL Director of Franchise Development indicated the League had been contacted by several groups about possible franchise ownership but the League would only consider strong candidates. Mr. Weibe also said that a deal would likely need to be in place by the time of the USL meetings in Tampa, Florida which are scheduled for November 19-22.
This isn't Berman's first attempt at attempting to secure ownership in the USL. The Oak Park, Illinois resident spoke with the League in 2008 about bringing a team to Indianapolis for the 2010 season. That attempt failed when the economy took a turn and other potential investors decided against the move. While he's still searching for a local investor to oversee the day-to-day operations of the club his visit answered a lot of questions.
"My trip to Wilmington reinforced all previous information and advice about the passionate connection between the Hammerheads franchise and the community. This a great market and an attractive opportunity for the right ownership group." Mr. Berman said.
Mr. Berman's inquiries are the most serious since the USL "discontinued its relationship" with Chuck Sullivan at the end of September. While serious about the possibility of franchise ownership Mr. Berman won't go at it alone.
"Motivated local investors and cooperation from the League are critical factors in the decision. During the next few weeks we will be working in this regard with a target decision date by mid November."
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