The Michigan Bucks soccer club, the most successful franchise in the history of the Premier Development League — now known as USL League Two — will relocate from Pontiac to Flint beginning with the 2019 soccer season under the leadership of Dan Duggan and Costa Papista.
Kettering University’s Atwood Stadium will serve as the team’s home field, allowing Bucks and USL League Two fans to enjoy elite men’s U-23 soccer at a historic venue. The stadium, which was built in 1929, seats approximately 10,000 fans compared to only 2,000 at the team’s former home, Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac.
In 2013, Kettering University assumed ownership of Atwood Stadium and made major renovations, including the installation of a new best-in-class field to support soccer, football and lacrosse. The result is a world-class facility that gives fans the ultimate viewing experience, and the players an unrivaled venue in which to compete.
“I am very excited about this move and partnership with Costa,” said team owner Dan Duggan. “We simply could not pass up this opportunity to move to Kettering University’s Atwood Stadium. Flint is a great sports town, and it is only about 35 miles north from Pontiac. This location allows our soccer club to grow its fan base, while continuing its relationship with our current fans in Oakland County. It also gives us the opportunity to expand our business and marketing footprint to encompass both Oakland County and Genesee County.”
Duggan has owned the Bucks since the league’s inception in 1995. Over the 23-year span, the Bucks have claimed the regular season title five times (2000, 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2016) and won the North American Championship three times (2006, 2014 and 2016). No other organization in the 72-team league has achieved such success, giving the Bucks the No. 1 ranking in both regular season and playoff competition. USL League Two is known as the premier “feeder” league to Major League Soccer (MLS), with 70% of MLS players taken from this North American league.
Costa Papista will join the Bucks as its operating partner and team president. Papista brings a history of sports franchise launches in mid-Michigan having presided over two successful OHL startups, the Saginaw Spirit and Flint Firebirds. “We want to create a great experience for our players, fans and sponsors of USL League Two soccer,” said Papista. “We were drawn to Kettering University’s Atwood Stadium because of the impressive renovations made by Kettering and its commitment to community engagement. We are excited to bring the most elite level of men’s pre-professional soccer to Flint.”
Bringing the Bucks to Atwood Stadium is a great partnership between the team and Kettering University.
“Costa Papista’s substantial experience in successfully operating sports franchises and his commitment to promoting community vitality in Flint were instrumental in Kettering University’s decision to allow Atwood Stadium to serve as the team’s home field,” said Kettering University President Dr. Robert K. McMahan. “This relationship adds a significant family-friendly entertainment draw to Flint and has great potential to further build the economy of our community.”
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said bringing the team to Flint is a benefit to everyone.
“This is another win for Flint, for our residents. This is a huge opportunity to introduce youth to a global sport and inspire the next generation of soccer legends," Weaver said. “To have the most successful franchise in the history of USL League Two play right here, at Kettering University’s Atwood Stadium, it truly is an honor. Kettering has added so many amazing things to the community, so to now add a soccer team, is really exciting. I look forward to attending games this upcoming season.”
Tim Herman, CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, said Flint has always been a sports town that embraces the opportunity to support elite competition.
“On behalf of the Flint & Genesee business community, we congratulate and welcome the Michigan Bucks to the area," Herman said. "This is great news not only for downtown Flint, but also for the region as it will increase the vibrancy and economic activity during the league’s season. More sports bring more fun, more vitality and opportunities to compete. And that’s a good thing.”
Mark Young, Chairman of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, was excited to hear that USL League Two will now have a team in Genesee County.
"Economic Development in Genesee County is a lot more than just recruiting businesses to move here," Young said. "It is about creating a vibrant, nurturing environment, that make them want to be here. The acquisition of the Michigan Bucks Soccer Franchise is another great reason to be part of Genesee County."
To welcome the team to Flint and to give fans a chance to immediately become part of the Bucks’ storied history, the team will hold a contest to rename and rebrand the franchise. More information will come shortly.