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The nonprofit Scorpions finally brought professional soccer to SA, but will it stick?

Photo: Photos by Kimberly Jennings, License: N/A

Photos by Kimberly Jennings

English forward Euan Purcell fights for a ball during one of the Scorpions' pre-season games.

Photo: , License: N/A

Founder Gordon Hartman

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Founder Gordon Hartman's daughter Morgan Hartman

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Coach Hankinson

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The team before one of the pre-season games. Pablo Campos, top row, far left; Mexican international Javier Saavedra fourth from left in bottom row.

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While he never thought of playing professional soccer in the U.S., the Scorpions made him an offer he couldn't refuse. "Even though this is second division, I was attracted by the whole Scorpions idea," said Saavedra. "The Scorpions have an infrastructure few first-division teams have. It's a very important project and I'm proud and excited to be here."

That infrastructure includes 14 state-of-the-art, laser-finished training fields at the STAR Soccer Complex next to Morgan's Wonderland and the stadium being built. For its first season, the Scorpions will play at the 11,000-seat Heroes Stadium (property of the NE Independent School District and located across from Morgan's Wonderland at the intersection of Wurzbach Parkway and Thousand Oaks Drive), but the team's goal is to have its own 18,000-seat stadium by 2013 (opening with a slightly diminished 6,400-seat capacity at first and building out in two stages).

At the groundbreaking ceremony for the new stadium, held next to Morgan's Wonderland, Mayor Julián Castro and former Mayor Ed Garza were among the most enthusiastic guests.

"This is fantastic for our city, because San Antonio is a soccer city," Mayor Castro told the Current after the groundbreaking ceremony. "We have tons of families with children who play soccer and who appreciate the sport. We think this will be a great success, not only for the Scorpions but for the community as well."

During his first unsuccessful campaign for mayor, Castro was vocal in his support for a professional soccer franchise in San Antonio, something eventual mayor Phil Hardberger opposed. "We turned the page in terms of San Antonio's pursuit of soccer," Mayor Castro said, before hinting at bigger amibitions. "To the extent that the Scorpions are successful, that will speak very well as to San Antonio's ability to get a Major League Soccer team." What's behind the mayor's words is significant: whether the Scorpions remain as a second-division team and a new Major League Soccer team is assembled, or the Scorpions themselves make the jump and become the latest addition to the MLS roster: soccer's destination in SA is the big league.

Former Mayor Ed Garza, a soccer fan and practitioner himself who for many years fought to bring a professional soccer team to San Antonio, was ecstatic. "It's a wonderful celebration," Garza told the Current. "The city was awarded an MLS franchise in 2006, but when I left office the new mayor [Hardberger] wasn't as interested. We've come a long way. The political support has aligned itself for this team and a lot of people are finally seeing what soccer means for San Antonio at all levels, not just professional."

The franchise Hardberger wasn't interested in (even as he unsuccessfully and controversially invited the post-Katrina New Orleans Saints to relocate to San Antonio permanently) eventually became the Houston Dynamo, which won the MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007. The former mayor says it wasn't soccer that he was against, but the specific deal San Antonio was offered. "I didn't like the business deal, it had nothing to do with the sport," Hardberger told the Current. "Soccer is a great sport that fits San Antonio, so I would love for us to have a good soccer team. I'd enjoy it. But the problem with the [2006] business deal, to put it in simple terms, is that [the MLS] got all the money. If I'm trying to make a deal with someone who wants to keep all the profits with not much left for us, there's not going to be a deal."

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