Indoor soccer is coming to Lakeland in November, with the Florida Tropics signing a 3-year contract to play at the Lakeland Center.
Andrew Haines, the CEO/owner of the Tropics, has been promoting the team at community events, according to the team’s Facebook page, but Haines isn’t saying much to reporters until a news conference set for May 3.
The team is getting a boost from the city of Lakeland, which is replacing worn-out backboards called dashers at the Lakeland Center to the tune of $82,000.
The dashers, previously used at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, were bought from Becker Arena Products in Minnesota.
“The old soccer boards weren’t up to par, and were close to 20 years old; it was time to re-invest,” Lakeland Center Director Tony Camarillo said.
Haines owns another indoor soccer team named the St. Louis Ambush, a member of the Major Arena Soccer League. The Ambush finished this past season with a 5-15 record. Haines’ wife Leah, is president of both franchises.
Since 2001, Haines has started more than 30 minor league sports teams in indoor football, hockey, and basketball since 2001, according to the Tropics website.
The Tropics will have 10 home games next season, and season tickets are already on sale, starting at $100 for standing general admission. First-level side seats are $400 to $500 for the season.
President Leah Haines will oversee the daily operations of the team and its subsidiaries.
The franchise general manager/ VP of operations is Andrew Ross, who worked for major league team Orlando City Soccer Club as a premium account executive for the last year. Before that, Ross worked as the assistant to the executive vice president of operation for United Soccer league.
Ryan Sweet will join as the assistant general manager. Sweet was a sales executive for Haines’ St. Louis Ambush.
Head coach is Clay Roberts, currently head soccer coach at Southeastern University. He’ll be assisted by Owen “Mac” McCarthy, also from Southeastern University, and Frederico Augusto Pieruccini Moojenis, assistant coach for the Ambush.
Indoor soccer is similar to the outdoor game, but there are differences.
The ball used in indoor soccer is slightly smaller — size #4 vs. size #5 — and the field is much smaller: 67-by-28 yards vs. 120-by-80 yards.
Indoor soccer consists of five players and one goalkeeper, where outdoor soccer allows 11 players, and a goalkeeper on the field.
Similar to hockey, indoor soccer has a “time-out box.” A player who commits a penalty has to sit there for two minutes, forcing the team to play with one fewer player.
Also, there is no offsides rule in indoor soccer, players are free to roam wherever they please, and slide-tackling is not allowed in indoor soccer. Similar to hockey, arena soccer uses asher boards around the outline of the playing field.
Indoor soccer started in the U.S. in 1923, according to usindoor.com.
The big show today is the Major Arena Soccer League, with 20 teams spread throughout the U.S. and Mexico. The Premier Arena Soccer League, founded in 1997, is a semi-professional league, consisting of 22 teams also in the U.S. and Mexico, and is basically a minor-league system for the Major Arena Soccer League.