A-League's Carolina Dynamo seeks move to Columbia Local group may become minor-league team partner

September 09, 1997|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

The owner of the Carolina Dynamo, one of the most competitive teams in professional soccer's top minor league, will be in Columbia today, hoping to make a deal that would move his franchise to this area next season.

Neil Macpherson, the A-League team's owner and member of the league's executive committee, confirmed the talks. From Greensboro, N.C., yesterday, he said he wants to find in Maryland "a financial partner to share the load."

The league, he said, already has approved the franchise move.

The local partner on the other side of the table is a group of Columbia-area investors headed by A. J. Ali, who is in the patio-furniture business, sources familiar with the negotiations said. Attempts to reach Ali for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.

The sources said the Dynamo would play the next two seasons at UMBC Stadium, but then would move to a new stadium complex that investors would build in the Columbia area.

UMBC has served in the past few years as home of the Baltimore Bays, a D3 Pro League (soccer's lowest minor league) team that lost over the Labor Day weekend in a playoff to be that league's East Region champion.

The Bays' outdoor team drew only about 300 fans per game this summer and is on the market. The owner, White Marsh businessman Bill Wallace, recently sold his indoor team to local banker Ed Hale, former owner of the Blast indoor team.

Macpherson said that in the current season, his 18-10 team has "lost money, big time." He said the team has averaged 2,700 fans at home, an attendance that placed the Dynamo 12th in the A-League.

The Dynamo's owner said that not being able to find an adequate array of corporate and commercial sponsors has hurt financially.

"Right now, they're more interested in the Carolinas in pursuing major-league baseball," he said.

Macpherson also has been involved in a dispute over dates and a no-beer rule with the school district that controls the High Point, N.C., high-school field the team has been using as its home field.

The Dynamo finished second in the Atlantic Division of the 24-team A-League this season and beat the first-place Richmond Kickers last weekend in the first round of playoffs. The division includes teams in Charleston, S.C., Hershey, Pa., Jacksonville, Fla., Raleigh, N.C., and Richmond, Va.

Pub Date: 9/09/97

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