Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon is expanding his sports empire.
Simon, who earned his spot on the Forbes 400 list as part of Simon Property Group, is buying an expansion franchise in the United Soccer League, a professional league with a player-development agreement with Major League Soccer.
The team, which will begin play in 2017, will share a $50 million Reno, Nevada, venue with the Reno Aces, a AAA baseball team. Simon also has an ownership stake in the Aces and the venue.
Simon could not be reached for comment.
“The vibrant city of Reno, combined with the outstanding ownership of Herb Simon, will assuredly create a most professional soccer organization,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a press release announcing the team.
“One of the world’s largest and most successful commercial mall developers, as well as the owner of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and Minor League Baseball’s Reno Aces, Mr. Simon will bring his vast business experience and passion for sports to the USL,” Papadakis added.
Financial terms of the expansion deal were not disclosed, but reports have pegged the cost of a USL expansion franchise at $2 million. That price has more than tripled since the USL signed its partnership with MLS in 2013, sources close to the league said.
Simon was part of a group that in 2006 bought the Tucson Sidewinders, the AAA affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The group moved the team to Reno and changed its name to the Aces in 2009.
Aces Ballpark, which opened in April 2009, features 6,500 seats, 22 luxury suites, 84 sports bar patio seats and general admission areas that bring the total capacity to more than 9,000.
“Aces Ballpark was always envisioned as a venue to bring the community together,” Reno Aces President Eric Edelstein said. “Bringing USL professional soccer to Reno is the next step in bringing world-class sports and entertainment to Reno.”
The Aces are in the Pacific Coast League, and do not compete against the Indianapolis Indians, a AAA team in the International League.
Nor will Simon’s soccer team compete on the field with the Indianapolis professional soccer team, the Indy Eleven, which is in the North American Soccer League.
The USL has been rapidly expanding since signing its agreement with MLS. More than a few soccer observers wonder what the USL’s expansion means for the 14-team NASL.
Five new USL teams will begin play in 2016. Reno's launch in 2017 will boost the league to 30 teams. In 2015, the USL expanded by 10 teams to 24.