Since Darin Van Tassell and Jeremy Aven announced a few weeks ago that they had secured the rights to bring a Premier Development League (PDL) soccer franchise to Statesboro, the buzz around the Boro has run the gamut.
For those of us who have been around a few decades, we have been down this path as a community before.
I recall the incredible doubt that surrounded Dr. Dale Lick when he started "secretly" meeting with community leaders with a wild idea to launch football again.
Then there was the dogged determination by Dr. Nick Henry to ensure our little college received the national recognition we deserved in becoming a university.
Remember when most of us thought Mayor Hal Averitt had lost his mind when he wanted to take the two center piece buildings downtown and make them an Arts Center?
Space will not allow, but we all remember tons of examples of how visionary leaders in our community dreamed up crazy ideas and then sold us on it.
I believe the PDL franchise has equal opportunity to impact this region in incredible ways. Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. Our rec leagues, high schools and university have embraced this sport and we have experienced the rapid popularity locally because of these great programs.
Will we soon see the construction of the second "prettiest little stadium in America" packed with thousands of fans cheering on our team? To answer this we need to take a closer look at Dr. Darin Van Tassell.
Let's walk back and look at the track record of Darin and in this you too may discover my excitement for this opportunity in our community.
To understand Darin you have to know his mom and dad and discover how they set the stage of opportunity for Darin and his siblings at a very young age. Next to them the person who has had the greatest impact on his life was his college baseball coach at GSU, Jack Stallings.
Jack was the coach who put GSU and Statesboro on the map long before we ever heard of Erk. Complimenting Jack's success on the field was his statesmanship off the field. He demanded excellence in the class room and the community equally as much as he did the baseball field.
Under his tutelage, Darin lettered all four years. Then he returned for five years and served as an assistant coach to Coach Stallings. Together they traveled the world inspiring youth with their love of baseball. Multiple Olympic teams enjoyed their experience and expertise.
During this period Darin and fellow assistant coach, Larry Bryant became business partners and purchased some land "way out in the county" to open up a golf range. That was in 1998. The next 16 years of growth is an example of Darin's amazing entrepreneurial instinct building on years of research and knowledge of sports trends.
In 2001, they opened Hacker's Miniature Golf, in 2005 they put in place a baseball school and added batting cages. In 2010, Darin and Tony Ross constructed The Clubhouse, which is managed by Darin's wife Netra. That year they added the baseball and softball academy. Even though his partnerships with Larry and Tony have ended, their investment and support was critical to these projects success.
It was also in 2010 that he began a partnership with Jeremy Aven, one of the brightest minds in South Georgia soccer and created the STORM soccer academy. In 2014, he added the go kart tracks and soccer fields. Now, the addition of the PDL franchise.
"There is one thing Statesboro does well and that is sports and sports marketing, Van Tassell said. "From Mill Creek, the RAC, GSU to The Clubhouse we have the tools in place to really grow the opportunities. The summer months are the slowest and hardest months for hotels and restaurants. With a May to July season this creates a perfect opportunity for sports fans."
I would say there are a number of things Darin does well. If history repeats itself, we all will be huge soccer fans soon.
Please email DeWayne at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at (912) 489-9499.