The Fort Worth Vaqueros minor league soccer team is set to begin its second season with a new home pitch.
After playing its inaugural season in the historic baseball setting of LaGrave Field just north of downtown, the semi-professional soccer club is moving a few miles to the southeast. Vaqueros officials said Tuesday they have reached an agreement in principle to play home games this season at Martin Field on the edge of the Texas Wesleyan University campus.
“The fans will be inches from the field, and we will have a full-size pitch,” said Vaqueros coach Mark Snell. “We’re going to have food trucks ... you name it. It’s going to be a real community park.”
Vaqueros officials have acknowledged that playing at LaGrave Field last season presented its share of challenges, although the club averaged about 2,000 fans per home date. One of the main issues was squeezing a rectangular soccer field into the baseball-appropriate ballpark — a geometric quandary that left the Vaqueros playing on a less-than-ideal, non-regulation pitch. Also, many of the LaGrave Field seats offered a distant view of the action.
Martin Field is already the home of the Rams men’s and women’s college soccer squads. It promises not only a full-size field but also plenty of room for a beer garden, kids zone, food-truck alley and fireworks.
Still, the Vaqueros aren’t moving by choice. The soccer club had a lease with the Fort Worth Cats minor league baseball club to use LaGrave Field. However, when the Cats lost that lease in an ongoing financial dispute between the city and the LaGrave Field ownership group, the Vaqueros lost their rights to the ballpark.
Rather than wait for a resolution to the LaGrave Field dispute, the Vaqueros sought a new home for their season in the National Premier Soccer League, which gets underway next month. The Vaqueros’ home opener is scheduled for May 16 against the Houston Regals.
The Vaqueros briefly considered using public school stadiums — Farrington Field was one option discussed — but wanted the ability to sell beer. Selling suds can be crucial in drawing casual fans and generating gameday revenue.
Long-term, the Vaqueros hope to build a permanent, soccer-specific stadium in or near downtown Fort Worth.
The club also hopes to take advantage of its new relationship with Alfreton Town Football Club, a minor league squad in northern England. Vaqueros owner Michael Hitchcock and his firm, Legend Football Partners, in January bought a share of Alfreton Town, creating the possibility the two clubs could share players and cross-market their shirts, scarves and other gear.
Snell said he hopes that one to four players from the Vaqueros squad will have a chance to travel to Alfreton at season’s end to train with their English partners.
At Texas Wesleyan, college soccer players will have a chance to train with the Vaqueros — and some could even play with the semi-pro club while maintaining college eligibility, said John Veilleux, the university’s vice president of marketing and communications.
Students who aren’t athletes may also works as trainers, or in other capacities for the Vaqueros, he said.
“We think there will be opportunities for a lot of our students,” he said.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796
Want to catch Vaqueros soccer?
The Fort Worth Vaqueros’ second season in the National Premier Soccer League begins May 8 with an away game at Dallas City. The Vaqueros’ opening home match is scheduled for May 16. The club will play a minimum nine home games at Texas Wesleyan University’s Martin Field.
Where: Home games will be played at Martin Field, 599 Collard St., in Fort Worth’s Polytechnic Heights neighborhood.
Tickets: Season tickets $80 for adults or $50 for kids 6 to 16 includes a Puma team jersey. (Wearing the jersey to the game serves as your ticket.) Single game tickets are $10 for adults ($8 in advance) or $5 for children 6-16. Kids 5 and under are free.
More info: Fortworthvaqueros.com
Vaqueros players to watch
Nestor Martinez A homegrown Fort Worth product, Martinez played three years with Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School before joining the Dallas Texans academy. The forward is now 19 years old and, after adjusting to being the youngest player on the Vaqueros last season, could be ready for a breakout year.
Ricardo “Ricky” Mejia The gifted midfielder has been strength training in the off-season to ratchet up the physical part of his game.
Tyler Humphrey This year’s captain has played the role of a defensive midfielder but really is more naturally an attacking mid, Snell said. “He’s got all the tools. He’s probably the kid with the most intense personality we have. We just need to work on channeling his aggression.”