New Turf Advantage:

Dayton Dynamo Football Club Stake Home At Roger Glass Stadium

By Marc Katz

Photo of by Dynamo David Janusz by Jeffrey Monbeck

David Satterwhite has this dream. Fans are tailgating, singing, bands are playing, and kids are roaming through the stands, playing safely among themselves.

On the field, just a few feet away, the Dayton Dynamo FC (that’s Football Club) are hosting a National Premier Soccer League match, surrounded by exotic food trucks and other vendors.

We are at Roger Glass Stadium, just behind Chaminade-Julienne High School, in downtown Dayton.

For all his love of soccer—which is the world’s football—Satterwhite, owner and CEO, sees more than just his sport when the Dynamo begin playing home games in May.

“It’s not only going to be a soccer match or any professional or amateur sporting match. It can’t just be the players,” Satterwhite says. “You’ve got to have the entertainment factor.”

And there it is, a blueprint laid out by other professional and amateur teams as they use bands, skits, cheerleaders, video scoreboards, and even friendly ushers to show customers to their seats.

Two nearby venues have done it ultra-successfully—the Western & Southern Tennis Open in Mason and Dayton Dragons baseball at Fifth Third Field, just a few blocks northwest of Roger Glass Stadium.

The Dynamo will play in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), one in an alphabet-soup mix of leagues throughout the country, at the Tier IV level, which Satterwhite profiles as a Collegiate All-Star level.

The season has loosely begun with a series of exhibitions and “friendlies,” a soccer term for pre-season games, especially between teams that aren’t evenly matched.

The real regular season begins for the Dynamo at AFC Cleveland on May 13, with an exhibition home match against the Cincinnati Dutch Lions on May 16. The Dynamo launches their NPSL season at home May 26 against AFC (A Fan’s Club) Cleveland beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Satterwhite’s dream is attached to a plan. The Cincinnati-based owner of the Dynamo has a notebook full of ideas and a path that seems to be following Paul Flory’s at the Western & Southern Tennis Open Tournament and Bob Murphy’s with the Dragons.

The late Flory, who always talked of his tournament as an event in case the big stars didn’t show up (they always did), made his venue fan friendly and comfortable.

Murphy, president of the Dragons, knew that the parent Reds would not always provide him with the best team, so he incorporates pre-game to last-out entertainment off the field as well.

Both venues have achieved record numbers of fans.

Dan Griest became coach of the Dynamo about midway into last season to reboot a languid team.

His job is different from Satterwhite’s in that winning is part of the formula. It will be his job to assemble a team, mostly from college players—several from nearby schools—and a few post-graduate players such as Mike Dehyle, who has retained his skills after playing at UD.

Dehyle, a physician’s assistant, is 27 years old and began playing for Satterwhite in about 2010.

It may have been pre-ordained to have Griest in this position, given his ties to the area, starting as a graduate of Northwestern High School in 1998. He first went to Butler University to play soccer before transferring back home to Wright State.

His soccer life after that amounted to training a bit with the Columbus Crew, then playing semi-pro and professional indoor soccer before returning to Northwestern in 2002 as a coach, while studying for his master’s degree at Wright State.

Because he has been in the area so long, Griest says he is more familiar with nearby talent.

“I’m able to see players and know players,” Griest says. “I have been able to coach a great group of players who are going to be our core. There are some local guys who learned to play from me and I helped get to college, and we’ve seen mature and grow.”

Being national, the NPSL has divvied up its teams into regions, with Dayton in the Midwest, playing teams from nearby states. When the playoffs arrive, teams could be playing anywhere.

One of the locals is Wright State’s Tristan Lyle, who grew up in Beavercreek where he was a high school all-state soccer player.

“I’m very excited about playing,” says Lyle, who’s just finished his sophomore WSU season. “They’ve put together some very talented guys. I think we’re going to surprise some people. I’m excited for the new stadium. I’m excited for the fans.”

Lyle would like to be a pro player someday, but knows he needs more experience to make that jump.

“The next two years, I’m expecting to learn a lot,” says Lyle, whose father is in the Air Force. He had a choice of attending Wright State or Ohio State, but chose smaller over larger.

“It was a great fit for me,” he says. “Ever since I was little, I had a passion for the game.”

At the same time, Lyle knows that foreigners playing soccer are different from Americans.

“How they grew up [playing mostly soccer] is not how we grew up [playing lots of different sports],” Lyle says, adding, “I played baseball and football when I was younger.”

There will also be competition for the Dynamo, not only from the Dragons but from another soccer team, the Dayton Dutch Lions, who base themselves in West Carrollton. There is also a professional team in Cincinnati that began to draw big crowds last season, FC Cincinnati, and Premier Development League’s Cincinnati Dutch Lions, an amateur team.

This may seem like a lot of teams, but there is also plenty of players. Drive by any large field during soccer season and swarms of kids are out with rows and rows of parents watching late-afternoon practices and games. As the kids grow older, other sports—and technology (computers, notebooks, and cellphones)—begin to win over free time.

Yet, through television, soccer has begun to make a mark, where before American football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and the other sports ruled, both professionally and collegiately.

Soccer has had to wait its turn, which, Satterwhite says, has arrived. “Soccer is here,” he says.

“My goal is to bring the highest level of professional soccer the city can support. Obviously, we’re not going to be bringing the David Beckhams and Lionel Messis to Dayton, Ohio,” Satterwhite says.  “That’s not the point. We want to make sure it’s good soccer so we can give [fans] a legitimate professional football atmosphere, as well as a product on the field.”

He pulls the entertainment strings.

“You’ve got to have the entertainment factor,” Satterwhite says. “You’ve got to have fan interaction. It’s got to be more of an event, especially if you don’t have a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo,” he strums.

“We have set it up with downtown. We’re able to sell alcohol at the matches. The kids are able to go to a free, hour-long, pre-match clinic with some of our players who aren’t dressed for that match. They’ll have a couple free soccer places, kick darts, inflatables, play darts with Velcro soccer ball, a live band for the professionals … You can go down and enjoy yourself, enjoy the pre-match festivities as well. Watch the match, then hope to push everybody out to downtown bars, restaurants, and what have you,” Satterwhite adds.

“There’s a market for it, if it’s done right.”

Let’s begin with that name, which Satterwhite has prominently displayed in his notebook, on how to promote soccer here.

“Dynamo”was the name of the old indoor team that played mostly at the Convention Center then gradually faded away in 1995, seven years after it began.

The team faded away, but the name didn’t. By using the Dynamo nickname, the team has instant recognition from those who follow—or just look in on—the sport.

Last season, the Dynamo played to sparse crowds at the old Welcome Stadium, operated by the Dayton Public Schools system, so no beer could be sold.

Even though the stadium has been nicely refurbished and the University of Dayton football team also plays there, a running track surrounds the field and the stands are set back far enough, so no real interaction with players can take place.

Then, Roger Glass was built, and Satterwhite saw an opening. He had previously operated the Cincinnati Saints indoor team, which took over after the folded Cincinnati Kings. It was decided indoor soccer was not viable.

“You’re going because it’s an event,” he says. “Young professionals can go, young families. It’s all fenced in so kids can’t get out. At the same time, it’s also supporting the city of Dayton. It’s entertainment built around soccer.”

Per NCAA rules, college players may participate in leagues such as the NPSL, but cannot be paid. They can be offered housing and expenses; and leagues such as the one Dynamo play in use them because they are often the best players available.

In exchange, the guys have a place to play over the summer to improve their skills.

Satterwhite says he operates with expenses a bit below $200,000 and “at this point, for everybody involved, it’s a labor of love.”

It certainly is for Dehyle, who grew up in Cincinnati, played at UD, and thinks of Satterwhite’s team as a second family.

“He’s a family guy,” Dehyle says. “It drives everything he does.”

Satterwhite was born in South Carolina, but grew up in Cleveland. He played at Wilmington College and has a business in Cincinnati. He remembers when the original Dynamo, then called the Silverbacks, moved to Cincinnati. When FC Cincinnati started last year, he considered folding his team, only several players were already driving down from Dayton to play for the team. Why not shorten their trip?

“We want Dayton to have its own identity,” Satterwhite says. “It was taken from them 20 years ago. Our stay at Welcome Stadium was only meant to be temporary. We knew Chaminade-Julienne was building.”

Soccer is gaining here, but not yet like in the rest of the world. While Europeans throng to their stadiums, our Major League Soccer (MLS) is not quite comparable, even when we poach star-quality players.

“Soccer around the world has the Kobe Bryants and Shaquille O’Neals,” Griest says. “Take Chad Johnson [or Ochocinco in his later years] when he was with the Bengals. If someone had taken him at age 5 and said, ‘You’re going to play soccer,’ that’s what he’d play. Our better athletes have many more opportunities that financially make a little more sense to a parent. Those amazing athletes end up first grabbing a football or baseball or basketball, simply because, financially, we’re not on par with the rest of the countries. Our current NBA guys are their pro soccer players. It’s hard to envision our guys being pro soccer players.”

Though, he adds, “Worldwide it’s a lifestyle.”

It’s a lifestyle that may be invading our shores. It will certainly be in downtown Dayton.

 

Dayton Dynamo’s regular season starts Saturday, May 13, at 7 p.m., at AFC Cleveland, with an exhibition home match against the Cincinnati Dutch Lions on Tuesday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m., at Roger Glass Stadium, 505 South Ludlow St. in Dayton. The NPSL season home game against Cleveland starts Friday, May 26, at 7:30 p.m. Individual tickets are $5–$15. For tickets or more information, please call 937.369.0563 or visit DaytonDynamo.com.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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