CHANDLER — Phoenix Rising FC may have to find a new home following the conclusion of the 2022 USL Championship season.
After originally signing a deal that would keep PRFC at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler through the 2026 campaign, new property managers have gone back on agreements made by the previous property management company that originally brought the club to WHP in December 2020.
Should Phoenix Rising be forced to move, it would mark the third different stadium in as many years for the club after playing at Casino Arizona Field in Scottsdale from 2017-20.
“It’s been a challenge,” PRFC general manager Bobby Dulle said Tuesday. “Some of the things that we had hoped for that were in place when we relocated here — there’s been a management change, a lot of new people so that just takes some time to sit down and kind of work through their reasons and the operational measures that we had hoped would be in place. So we’re exercising some patience on that front.”
The GM added that he was introduced to the new management group late last week and is excited to sit down with them to discuss the future of Phoenix Rising at Wild Horse Pass.
“The fan experience, the fan environment, we always strive (for that),” Dulle explained. “That’s something we talked about when we relocated here and for us, we want a great fan experience and we want people to want to come out to the park and ultimately stand and support for 90 minutes for the guys because that’s what they need and that’s what we want.
“I encourage feedback, we’re listening, we’re trying. We’re doing everything within our control to make it a really positive fan experience and none of us are satisfied off the field, on the field and we’re going to keep working to continue to raise the bar.”
Dulle also said that the future is getting harder to predict, pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of how quickly and drastically things can change at a moment’s notice.
“My focus on a day-to-day basis is on what we can do to continue to try to be the top club here in USL, have the best facilities, the best fan experience and then obviously have a product on the field that the fans are excited about and want to come out and support,” he said.
“That’s where all my focus is and wherever our future lies, it’s with the fans in mind. That was one of the reasons we made the relocation move was improving the fan experience. I can assure you that the ownership group is extremely committed, they care about this club and this community, this fanbase more than anything.”
Dulle spoke with some of Phoenix Rising’s owners on Tuesday morning who are currently spread out over multiple continents. PRFC’s large and global ownership group features the likes of Ivory Coast native Didier Drogba, China native Alex Zheng and Turkey native Berke Bakay, who also serves as the club governor.
“This is important to them,” Dulle said. “Every decision that has been made and that will continue to be made has been unified by the ownership group. … That’s an ownership group that is not satisfied as well, so they want to continue to find opportunities and create an environment that’s great for all.”
Since the completion of its construction for the 2021 campaign, Phoenix Rising’s facilities at Wild Horse Pass — a stadium, two training pitches and two locker rooms — have served as a preseason hosting site for multiple MLS sides such as Sporting Kansas City, as well as a January camp for the United States men’s national team earlier this year.
So is there still an opportunity for PRFC to return to WHP for the 2023 season?
“Oh yeah, absolutely — there’s plenty of opportunities,” Dulle said. “We invested a lot of money, Gila River invested a lot of money. … The quality, the standard that this facility sets and the other teams that come here, I can tell you that every conversation that we have, they say it’s first class. And that’s the way we’re going to continue to operate, so we want to make sure we create a good environment on a daily basis for our players, our staff.
“We want to create a good environment for our fans and we’re confident that no matter where our future lies that those are the things that are going to drive our decision-making.”