The following is a transcript of a conference call on which Dave Checketts, chairman and owner of the new Salt Lake City Major League Soccer team, introduced Pastorino to the media:
DAVE CHECKETTS OPENING STATEMENT:
"We announce today our first major hire as we name Steve Pastorino the general manager of the Salt Lake MLS franchise. Steve is also directing the hiring of Chris Keeney as the senior director of sales. Steve has been the assistant General Manager of the Chicago Fire, and Chris Keeney has been at D.C. United where he was the director of sales for the last three years.
"I feel really blessed to get someone of Steve's caliber to not only be excited about coming to Salt Lake but to really embrace it. He's a young, very talented executive in sports and he's had tremendous success in Chicago, and now he assumes the leadership of our franchise as our general manager. He'll be charged with hiring a head coach, a search that is already well underway. With Dean Howes and myself, he's already started to talk to candidates and we're progressing well. That will be Steve's decision, and he will also be in charge of all areas of our operations: marketing, public relations, community relations, as well as setting up the team and preparing us for the Expansion Draft and the SuperDraft in January.
"I'm proud to introduce him to the Utah Community. He's the right guy for the job - a young guy with a bright future ahead of him as he steps into the role of general manager."
STEVE PASTORINO OPENING STATEMENT:
"Certainly the faith that Dave Checketts and Dean Howes are showing in me gives me a great degree of confidence as I go to work here in Salt Lake City. We've been on the ground here for about 48 hours so please forgive me if it seems like we're going a million miles an hour but we need to and we will.
"We're very excited about having Chris Keeney here. He'll join me on Monday as our right hand person, which gives me all the more confidence that from a business standpoint we will build the type of organization that I envision.
"I would be remiss if I didn't say thank you to Phil Anschutz, Peter Wilt, and everybody in the AEG and the Chicago Fire families. Certainly they've given me every opportunity to learn what this League is about in my seven years there, to grow as an individual, and to be in a position to assume the role of general manager of a team in this League.
"Those of you who know me know the expectations that I have of myself and that we had at the Chicago Fire. And you can expect that we're going to hold this team to even higher standards if possible. Chris Keeney, in his time with D.C. United, worked for a team that stands for no less than a tradition of excellence and we'll steal some of the best ideas we can from there as well. And if there's a good idea within MLS or any other sports that I can beg, borrow, or steal, you can be sure that this organization is going to be an amalgamation of the best ideas in sports. The market is very receptive and will be ready for what we're going to bring to the marketplace.
"I've spent the last seven years with the Chicago Fire and in that time I oversaw marketing, sponsorship, advertising, game entertainment, broadcasting - a full gamut of the business side. In the last four years, I've been fortunate to have spent a lot of time as the Fire has sought its own soccer-specific stadium and to really guide the planning and development process for the stadium that will ultimately open in Bridgeview in 2006. That team has every right to be excited about and proud about that project.
"For the last two years I've been very fortunate to work next to Peter Wilt, learning about how MLS works from a salary-cap standpoint, from a roster-management standpoint, from a relationship standpoint between the technical team side and the business side. I began to form my own opinions about the type of team I would build on the field if given the opportunity. I'm fortunate to be in the position I've been put in during my seven-year tenure here at MLS.
"I spent six years working in minor league baseball, predominantly in the Mojavi desert in Southern California where among other things I learned how to operate fairly lean if necessary in a startup environment and how to build a stadium and identity of a brand from scratch. The things that we did in the desert in California and the things that we did in Chicago with the Fire will all have an influence in what we are going to accomplish in Salt Lake City.
"My father was a U.S. Diplomat so I spent half of my childhood overseas. I was born in Venezuela. The first soccer game I ever went to, at age six, I sat in the stands of this little club called Estoril in the suburbs of Lisbon. Estoril, in the two years that we lived in Portugal, by whatever fluke was in the first division. I watched them in a little stadium not too far from the Atlantic Ocean. By incredible coincidence, Estoril has just regained its place in the first division for the first time in 30 years this season.
"Those were my formative years in soccer. I followed clubs like Millonarios when we moved to Bogota, Colo mbia. I was very fortunate to live in Mexico City during the 1986 World Cup and I attended a number of matches. I also began to get my exposure to Pumas, America and Chivas that really dominate the Mexican soccer landscape.
"When we weren't living overseas we were a government family living in Washington, D.C. I was a kid running around with a baseball bat and playing youth soccer. My two passions as a boy have been combined in my career.
"Lastly, I do want to say thank you and hello to my wife and two boys back in Chicago. We'll relocate them as quickly as possible to Salt Lake City to be together as a family. Family is very important to me. The concept of family can extend to a professional organization and it will here in Salt Lake City.
"Our mission here in Salt Lake is to be nothing short of a leader in the standings, a beacon in the community, whether it be in the business community or the soccer community in this region, and to be a very successful business enterprise. We want to leave a legacy of soccer in Utah, in Salt Lake City, and in this entire region that Dave Checketts, Don Garber and MLS can be proud of. The legacy starts right now and we can't wait to get to work.
"Yes, we need to finalize our name and logo. I'm thrilled that I still have an opportunity to get involved with that. Those of you familiar with the Chicago Fire know that until the eleventh hour there was a different name, logo and colors than what became the Chicago Fire. We were very pleased that as an ownership group and a management team we influenced the Fire's identity.
"Now that things are in place and I'm sitting with Dean (Howes) and Dave (Checketts) everyday, all of the processes are accelerating, and we'll see a torrent of announcements in the weeks to come: name, logos, colors, uniforms. I have to get a head coach in here as soon as possible, as the Expansion Draft will be held in two short months. We have the rest of the MLS season to analyze what current players in the MLS system we want to bring into the marketplace. We're also in the middle of a college season when there's a potential for talent to play at a very high level here in MLS right away, and we have the international allocation system to acquire players that we can get a start on right away. There's been some very solid intelligence done by Dean (Howes) and Dave (Checketts) and this organization prior to my arrival. I once again ask for the opportunity to extend influence and suggestions before we make a final decision.
"I have a lot of work to do and we need some help. I have to fill out a staff right now. I've heard from some very talented people that want to be on board for this opportunity as we grow a soccer organization from scratch in Salt Lake City. We are going to have a very young and aggressive organization that is going to be hungrier than any other organization. It will be aggressive on the streets and representing this franchise in an impeccable fashion. A series of announcements will be coming shortly as we put that team together. There will be individuals from the local area who have never worked in a professional soccer environment or professional sports environment and individuals who you'll recognize from the national soccer community who want to relocate for personal or professional reasons. We'll have a great mix. I'm not ready to make those announcements yet, but we'll have some fantastic people.
"Finally, Chris Keeney is nudging me here to announce that we are officially accepting ticket deposits for the 2005 season. It will be $30 per seat, and you can go to MLSnet.com or ILoveUtahsoccer.com and follow the links. But get your deposits in right now because the priority list starts today and the first choice of seats will go to those who get online and sign up today.
"As for final ticket pricing structure, we do not have that yet. We will be competitively priced for this market and this league. We will make the game accessible to every facet of this community, whether it is the corporate community that's looking for high-end hospitality options or a family that is bringing the kids in the minivan and doesn't want to spend a week's salary on tickets, hot dogs, and soda at the game. We will be very fairly priced and there will be an announcement forthcoming."
PASTORINO ON WHAT HE WILL BRING TO THE SALT LAKE CITY MARKET:
"Certainly I'm going to continue what I feel is a strong point in Chicago in terms of making television broadcasts a very active part of how we get people to experience our game. I would expect that every road game for this team will be available whether in the national or regional or local television here in the marketplace. We are not going to shy away from putting big home games on TV because those are showcases for fans. If you can't make it because you couldn't get a babysitter or you just have other plans for that night, we want to make sure you'll be out there watching this team on television.
"It's just an investment that this company is prepared to make. From a marketing and advertising standpoint, we will be aggressive. We'll be fun and family friendly. We will certainly have something that will appeal to everybody who's interested in our sport, in our league, and in finding a phenomenal way to spend a summer night outdoors in Salt Lake City. We value the integrity of the game, the sport as king, and we will definitely create a fun and engaging environment for the community to get involved in our sport."
PASTORINO ON SALT LAKE CLUB'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UTAH BLITZZ AND OTHER SOCCER LEAGUES:
"Regarding the Blitz, I know that conversations have taken place before I arrived here discussing our relationship with them. I have tremendous respect for what they've built here and we'd be foolish not to take advantage of some of what they've created in the marketplace. I haven't met with them yet, so I can't speak to that.
"As far as the Latino soccer leagues here in Salt Lake go, know that I am committed to building this a team with a lot of international flavor. I think for those of us who do not come from Salt Lake City there might be some impressions that this is not a cosmopolitan city. Frankly, I'm thrilled to hear the position of this ownership group is that this club be respected around the world, not just in Salt Lake and not just in MLS.
"We want to really become a world leader and a world team, and we can't do that without every potential fan in the marketplace. We've already met with the Utah State Soccer Federation to get their feedback about how to reach out to the adult amateur community. Specific to the Latino leagues themselves, I look forward to meeting with their leadership. I would love to know what support they bring to the game. What teams do they want us to bring? We want to bring world class soccer to Salt Lake, not just MLS teams, but also make sure we have a full slate of international games as well. Who do you want to see? How do you want to connect to your Salt Lake Soccer team? We're going to ask those questions."
PASTORINO ON THE CHARACTERISTICS HE IS SEEKING IN A HEAD COACH:
"Someone who can take us to MLS Cup in 2005. I think in general we're a young league - from the history of our league, to the age of players on the field, to the age of our fan base. We want someone who will bring a young mentality in their approach to the game. I'm not locked into a specific style.
"With Italian heritage I've seen how the Italian National Team has played my entire life, and it doesn't make for the most attractive soccer, but it wins. I'd like to think we'll have an attractive style of play that will win games. I think a solid knowledge of young American players is critical, whether that be players in the U.S. Soccer Federation's system, players in Project-40, players in college, or young players in Major League Soccer.
"As we shape our roster going forward and MLS decides how many international players we will have (if it expands from three to four) and with all the transitional international players, a coach needs to find players from the four corners of the globe and use connections to bring those players in. There may be a coach who decides that the best players who can win a Cup in MLS will come from CONCACAF, another who says they need to come from Europe.
"It's going to be some combination of all these factors which is going to allow one coach to separate himself from all the rest and identify himself as the first head coach of the Salt Lake soccer team."
PASTORINO ON HIS ROLE IN FILLING THE ROSTER OF THE TEAM:
"Let me make it clear that I'm not going to pass myself off as the soccer expert, and I will never put a coach in the position of telling him I think we need to sign a player. I will tell a coach my opinion, and I'll be a source for feedback and a sounding board. I'll do a lot of the legwork in terms of talking to other coaches, talking to general managers, talking to agents, and exploring other sources where we might find players.
"I prefer to work with the coach to put the right players in front of him and let him evaluate who's going to make the final roster, who's going to start on opening day, and how we're going to build the roster from top to bottom. It's very exciting with all the talent here at MLS. And I think a lot of the international players coming to play in MLS really get a wake up call. It's tougher and more physical than they realize and it's demanding in very different ways than the game is demanding in Europe or South America. Only a certain caliber of player really makes it in this league.
"The first player signed by the Chicago Fire was Peter Nowak, and he came to embody everything that the Chicago Fire stood for and to this day I have great respect and admiration for Peter as a player, a coach, and a friend. If you start a team with a player of that caliber, whether he's an American player, a foreign player, a younger player, or an older play, that's almost hitting the jackpot right off the bat. Whoever we hire as a coach will need to prove to me that he can find that player, but that he can also figure out which 19-year-old kid who's going to be part of Project-40 next year is ready to make an impact in this league."
PASTORINO ON SPECULATION REGARDING COACHING CANDIDATES:
"We're not going to share any names at this time. I think you will find that as I begin to consider coaches and players I will do it in a very private fashion. It can be fashionable to put names out there. Sometimes people like to feel the waters and find out how the media or the community is going to respond. That's not really my nature and I'm not going to answer that at this point."
PASTORINO CLOSING COMMENT:
"A lot of us feel like we have a motivation or a calling-and I don't mean that in ecclesiastical terms, but in personal terms-about what's meant to happen and what we want to do. I just want to share a story about a dear friend of mine named Darian Chapman. For those of you who knew Darian, he was our play-by-play announcer in 2002 in Chicago. Darian was never happier than when we had an opportunity to rehearse with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during the 2002 Winter Olympics here in Salt Lake. He was not Mormon, he was not from here, but he had a great passion for life and for singing and for his church choir. He was a very talented NBC sportscaster. The images and recollections of Darian that were shared at his eulogy when he died at a very young age at the end of 2002 remain with me to this day. I'll just say that somehow it seems right that I'm in this market and that Darian is probably looking down at a place where he found great happiness and I'm finding great opportunity."