Santa Barbara Sky plans for its future
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on a professional soccer club in Santa Barbara.
La Playa Stadium might see some improvements in lighting as Peter Moore prepares to shine the national spotlight on Santa Barbara.
Then, some day, Mr. Moore said, Santa Barbara Sky will have its own stadium.
The Montecito resident and former Liverpool Football Club CEO is thinking about the future for the Santa Barbara Sky Football Club. This week, Mr. Moore, the club’s founding investor, announced the formation of the club, which will have professional women’s and men’s soccer teams who are expected to start playing in 2024.
During a News-Press interview, Mr. Moore said Saturday night games will stream across the U.S. on ESPN+ from La Playa Stadium at Santa Barbara City College.
“Right now, La Playa is going to be great,” Mr. Moore said. “It’s not ideal for soccer because of the track, which keeps you away from the action. But we’ll make it work, and Santa Barbara City College is great to work with.
“We’ll do some analysis. If flood lights need to be brought up to modern standards, we’ll do that in conjunction with City College,” Mr. Moore said. “High-definition cameras have strict guidelines for lights.”
Mr. Moore added that new flood lights would be more environmentally friendly.
The investor, who has worked in the sporting goods and video games industries, said he is committed to “bringing the stadium to what we feel it needs to be a great soccer experience, for the players, for the viewers (watching on ESPN+) and perhaps more importantly for the thousands of people who will attend the games.”
Mr. Moore, who visited La Playa this week, said improvements might be needed for the seats.
But he added that he’s thrilled with La Playa’s proximity to downtown Santa Barbara, which he said fits the soccer tradition of putting stadiums near workers. “It’s a 10-minute walk to State Street.
“It’s a spectacular location,” Mr. Moore said. “As a guy who has been to hundreds of stadiums around the world, I love the view looking at the beach and over the harbor. We’re excited to share that with national TV viewers.”
Mr. Moore added the long-term plan is for the Santa Barbara Sky Football Club to find land and build its own stadium.
The News-Press on Wednesday reached out to Santa Barbara City College concerning the Santa Barbara Sky Football Club’s use of La Playa Stadium.
“SBCC is working through the details of a contract with the USL, and we are optimistic that we will be able to come to a mutually beneficial and fair agreement where La Playa Stadium becomes the home of both the SBCC Vaqueros as well as the Sky,” Martha Swanson, executive director of public affairs and communications, told the News-Press in an email. “We’re discussing everything from scheduling that works with our athletics and P.E. activities, USL investment in our facilities and other ways that we can collaborate.
“We do believe that having this team in Santa Barbara is good for the community, especially our children and families,” she said.
“Welcoming the USL and the Sky presents the opportunity for SBCC athletes and students to benefit from improvements and upgrades to our existing facilities as well as the opportunity to engage with professional athletes,” she said. “Both of these things are exciting.”
On other logistical matters, Mr. Moore said efforts to recruit players will be under way by next year.
“I would say that this time next year, you start putting names on the team sheets,” Mr. Moore said. “There could be players you could have already signed. The prime age for soccer is 25, 26, 27, maybe 28.
“We’re keeping close eyes on local talent,” he said, referring to players on teams at UCSB, Westmont and SBCC as well as Santa Barbara Soccer Club members who’ve gone on to other colleges. “We’ll also scout nationally, as teams have to do, to find talent.
“Typical squads are 24 members,” Mr. Moore said. “That could change from one year to the next.”
Mr. Moore said the Santa Barbara Sky Football Club will look at housing for its players and that the club’s offices will be in Santa Barbara.
After the team is assembled, it will need to travel far to play games, Mr. Moore said. Santa Barbara Sky won’t be playing the Los Angeles Galaxy or other teams of that level.
Instead, Santa Barbara Sky will compete against teams in the United Soccer League’s USL League One. Mr. Moore said that means traveling to cities such as Madison, Wisc., or Chattanooga, Tenn.
“Long term, we’re putting Santa Barbara as the jewel on the West Coast. Our goal is to bring USL League One teams maybe to San Diego, Orange County and L.A.,” said Mr. Moore, whose club has already started its merchandising efforts with items such as T-shirts.
In addition to announcing its teams, the club has announced the formation of its philanthropic foundation, “La Fundación del Cielo,” which will support disadvantaged groups in Santa Barbara.
“I am pleased to hear of Santa Barbara Sky FC’s inclusion in the USL,” Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse said in a statement. “Having a professional soccer team in our city will be a great way to get our local young people excited about one of the most popular sports in the world, and getting support from La Fundacion del Cielo foundation will be a great benefit to the community.”