The Indoor soccer market in USA is in continuous expansion. American interest in soccer-related matters and availability of tennis or hockey structures to re-purpose make indoor soccer an attractive business for entrepreneurs. Read our interview with Steven Say, a WSBSPORT client opening an indoor soccer center in Chicago.
Tell us about your relationship with Indoor soccer
I was first introduced to Indoor soccer in the French Riviera where I grew up. The indoor soccer fields were of better quality than any public location and hiring a pitch was cheaper than going to the movies. We didn’t have to drive around hoping to find an open field and we didn’t need as many players. It was a great business model.
When I moved to the US, my partner and I found ourselves in the ideal situation to launch a sports business. We were familiar with indoor soccer market in France and American sports culture having just graduated in business from an American university. We had known each other for years, shared an entrepreneurial mindset and had a bit of money to spend. It was perfect.
Is indoor soccer popular in the United States ?
5-a-side soccer centers are almost non-existent in the US. There are some soccer centers that offer 5-a-side and 7-a-side but they all have common problems such as fields in terrible condition, converted hockey rinks that are way too big, lack of bars or restaurants. However, because there is a lack of soccer facilities these places can charge a premium price. The average cost per hour including league and referee fee is of $15.
With an underserved market and customers willing to pay a higher price, European companies started opening indoor soccer centers in the US. As expected, initial results indicate we are at the early stages of development of a great 5-a-side soccer market.
Tell us about your project
We hope to open our first center in Chicago before the end of the year. The center is located at the heart of the Mexican-American community in Chicago, a prime demographic for any 5-a-side soccer center. The center will accommodate 6 indoor fields as well as a large club house including a bar/restaurant, retail area, lounge and locker rooms.
What are the major issues you faced?
Real estate was definitely the biggest issue we faced. We struggled to find buildings with enough column span in a good location. Most commercial/industrial real estate listings are not accessible to the general public. We had to rely on brokers and finding potential buildings was a slow process. When we found potential sites, landlords were not familiar with 5-a-side and were scared to have startup tenants preferring to stick with a more traditional “warehouse” if they could. We knew this critical process was going to take a long time but we didn’t expect it to be that long, it took us two years. The good thing is that we stayed patient and did not lose hope. I am certain that as market develops in the US it will become easier to convince landlords indoor soccer facilities can generate great revenue.
What would be your advise to investors who want to start an indoor soccer facility in the US?
I believe they need to be familiar with the country and the business practices in the US. I cannot imagine having to go through what we did without knowing the country or the language. Staying patient and motivated is important. It takes on average 2 to 3 years to start generating revenues with an indoor soccer center.
Time is money. Legal fees and other necessary expenses add up quickly so you definitely need a substantial amount of money even before finding the right building and investors. Being helped by the right people is something that will substantially increase your chances of success. Being supported and advised by the WSBSPORT helped us a lot.