Eric Edelstein: Bringing Soccer to Reno from ‘Soup to Nuts’

Sunday, February 18 will be the first soccer game for the new United Soccer League (USL) team, the Reno 1868 FC.

Picture from Reno 1868 FC Twitter account: @reno1868fc

The first game will be an exhibition against the Major League Soccer’s (MLS) San Jose Earthquakes at Greater Nevada Field, for which Reno 1868 FC is the affiliate. Having a professional team in Reno is a huge step for the city, one that Reno Aces and Reno 1868 FC President Eric Edelstein had a large impact in.

“I wrote the business plan, negotiated the franchise purchase with the league… kind of led the whole thing from soup to nuts,” said Edelstein, sitting relaxed in Suite 9 at Greater Nevada field after concluding a meeting. “It’s kind of been my baby now for going on almost a year and a half, more than a year and a half since we started working on it.”

Soccer’s popularity in the United States has increased significantly over recent years and is already the most popular sport worldwide. According to FIFA World Football Big Count, the US ranks second in the world in the number of people who play soccer at some level.

Edelstein is determined to be successful in bringing soccer to Reno. He believes this is the perfect time to bring a professional team to Reno as well as a great way to bring more people from the community to the ballpark.

“People just appreciate what we are doing to use the venue. So there’s a sense of community, kind of a pride in ownership. That this isn’t just a place to go, but it’s our place.”

Families enjoying the Reno Ice Rink in front of Greater Nevada Field

Greater Nevada Field has become more active in holding events throughout the calendar year since Edelstein took over. In October, Reno Fright Fest was held at Greater Nevada Field. Over the past 11 years, Reno Fright Fest has become one of the most popular Halloween attractions in Northern Nevada. Greater Nevada Field is also hosting “Christmas on the Corridor” this year, an event designed for underprivileged families to have Christmas and have their kids enjoy some presents and meet Santa Claus.

Behind the Boss

Just like most children growing up, Edelstein wanted to play. But he soon realized that he might need to find a real day job. After falling upon sport management in high school, Edelstein quickly realized that the front office might suit him better than third base.

“I came on sport management when I was in high school. My parents weren’t super thrilled about it. They didn’t think that was a real job,” said Edelstein.

Photo courtesy Reno 1868 FC

But the Ohio Native continued on pursuing the profession. He got his start in sports during his college years attending Bowling Green State University, located roughly 22 miles south of Toledo. He graduated from BGSU in 2000 with a degree in Sports Organization Management. Since graduating he has held multiple positions in the sports world.

His first professional position after graduation was the Buffalo Bisons, currently a Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, where Edelstein was the marketing director. Before becoming President of the Aces and 1868, Edelstein worked as General Manager of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, from November 2006 to May 2013.

Edelstein, 38, took over as President of the Aces in June of 2013 and within his first year he a made significant on the organization.

According to Edelstein’s LinkedIn page, in 2014, the Aces reached franchise revenue highs in marketing partnership sales, suite lease/rental sales, group event sales, and partial season ticket plan sales with 90 percent turnover of the sales team. He also successfully negotiated the move of the Reno Ice Rink to Greater Nevada Field in the winter of 2014.

“Ultimately, I’m accountable for operating a successful business in everything that we do here. It’s managing a staff now of well over 40 people of various disciplines. Successfully selling, marketing the product, operating the venue, making sure we are operating a clean,safe venue that’s fun for people to attend,” said Edelstein of his duties as President of the Aces. “In its simplest terms, I’m accountable for every dollar in and every dollar out.”

Recognition From His Peers

In 2015, Edelstein was named Ballpark Digest’s Executive of the Year. The award is given out once a year to one executive among all forms of professional baseball. The winner of the award could be in the Major Leagues, minor leagues, independent baseball, summer- collegiate, or college baseball.

But Edelstein is also not one to celebrate his personal victories. He believes that winning the Ballpark Digest’s Executive of the Year was more of team achievement than anything else.

“I think those individual awards, as much as I appreciate them, they’re a little overrated. I really like the team awards more,” Edelstein said humbly. “To become executive of the year, a lot of things had to go right, and I couldn’t have done them all. It was done by a team of people. So I look at is as something we share.”

At the end of the day, Edelstein likes the grind his job provides. He’s not a milestone guy or big into winning awards. He’s a guy who loves his job and is happiest being productive and getting things done. He enjoys being in meetings, making decisions, seeing things get pushed forward.

When asked what he feels his greatest personal achievement is, Edelstein said, “Staying in it this long… My greatest achievement is just surviving, thriving in this industry for so long and trying to find new ways to grow it.”

2015 RSJ grad Josh Putney has settled in well at his new position as the Digital Media and Public Relations coordinator for the Reno 1868 FC since being hired in October 2016. The Reno 1868 FC is a new team in United Soccer League (USL) that will play their home games at Greater Nevada Field, sharing the field with the Reno Aces.

As the Digital Media and Public Relations coordinator, Putney has multiple responsibilities such as helping push the brand out to the public and organize meetings for the coaching staff.

“On one side I plan and create content for all media channels to build brand consistency and awareness. The other side is public relations intensive. I have to plan meetings for the head coach and create press releases to keep all media outlets informed,” Putney said.

Having attended the University of Nevada, Reno, and being from Nevada, Putney thinks that Reno is a perfect city for a professional soccer team.

“People all around Reno and sparks have already shown great support for the team, which is amazing,” Putney said. “It’s a smaller city, but I think that’s what is going to make it successful. People in Reno harbor a tribal mentality and inherent pride for their city and that is what we want to tap into.”