UMBC Athletics has been on the rise on many different levels in the past year. The $85 million UMBC Event Center was opened on Feb. 3, 2018. Men’s basketball upset the number one team in the country on the biggest stage for college basketball this past March. Shortly after, men’s lacrosse joined in on the fun, upsetting the number one college lacrosse team in the nation. So what is the next big thing for Retriever Nation? UMBC soccer looks to find a new home.
UMBC alumni Tim Ryerson and Bobby “Wags” Wagner have created a fundraiser for new bleachers in the Retriever Soccer Park. The two “Original Big Dawgs” for Head Coach Pete Caringi Jr., representing the soon to be named UMBC soccer alumni association, have initiated a plan for a new soccer stadium with larger bleachers. Ryerson and Wagner were both soccer stars here at UMBC under Coach Caringi.
In fact, they were both a part of the first team coach Caringi led at UMBC back in ’91. Ryerson joined the Retrievers as a transfer from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas looking for maximum impact on a team, and played three seasons as a center defensive midfielder until ’94. UMBC Hall of Fame member Wagner played from ’91 until ’95 as an All-American goal-scoring defender, pulling off 31 goals in ’92. “It’s important to us as alumni to think: how can we give back to the program?” Ryerson said.
The two represent a group of UMBC soccer alumni who merged into a collective foundation to give back to their former school. Unofficially, according to the fundraiser’s PayPal description, the group is currently named “UMBC Soccer Foundation 2018,” but Ryerson has said that is subject to change.
The idea for a new soccer stadium first came up about five years ago when the two met with President Hrabowski, Athletic Director Tim Hall, Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Nancy Young and Vice President of Institutional Advancement Gregory Simmons. The group was excited because they assumed that this was something that the project would then kick into gear soon afterward, but that did not seem to be the case.
“We understand the amount of resources put into the new basketball arena,” Ryerson said, explaining some of the potential reasons for the lack of action on both sides after this meeting. “We decided that we needed to do something about it. It’s been five years, we needed to start some kind of action steps to getting the stadium started at least with some bleachers.”
The first “action steps” by the alumni group were announced following the season in 2017 during which the men’s soccer team broke the attendance record not once, but twice. First, during welcome week of 2017 against Howard in front of 2,873 fans and, shortly after, against then number one ranked Maryland in front of 3,766.
According to the fundraisers official PayPal account, the current goal for the proposal stands at $500,000 with a goal of reaching that by January 2020.
The first stage of the fundraiser would rely heavily on money raised through alumni groups such as the group Ryerson and Wagner represent, but also students and other fans of the program who, according to Ryerson, “see the value in UMBC student-athletes.” Ryerson also hopes to engage local partners and previous alumni that remain in the local communities in the fundraising effort. This first stage would likely take place until about the $250,000 mark, a point which will be enough for some permanent changes to the Retriever Soccer Park.
“We can probably pull off, you know, $250,000 to build some kind of permanent structure for some stands,” Ryerson stated. Ryerson’s goal after the $250,000 mark is that the money raised would then be matched by local foundations and sponsors, or potentially the university.
Ryerson compared this initiative to a LEGO project, suggesting that once a permanent platform is set, one would be able to complete it piece by piece. The biggest priority for the group is to have a permanent set of new bleachers with a larger capacity than the ones currently standing.
Ryerson and Wagner have already bought a domain name for a website to be the direct platform for the group as well as host information about the proposal, the group and the fundraiser. They have also created a bank account where the collected funds will be placed directly.
Once the group has a standing name, Ryerson and Wagner will then establish the foundation as a non-profit 501c3. Ryerson already has prior experience with establishing 501c3s, such as the one he established as Executive Director of the Ellicott City Soccer Club. Once they are established as a non-profit group, they will then able to increase marketing efforts and really kick into stage one.
This proposal would be the next step to UMBC’s recently opened Event Center and the timing could not be any better. In what was a monumental year for UMBC Athletics, the proposal would take advantage of the momentum and build on it. This move could end up having an even larger effect on ticket sales and improve the already incredible atmosphere at Retriever Soccer Park.
This fundraiser is still beginning to unfold so stay tuned for more updates and information.