MUSC gets rights to Battery stadium

MUSC Health Stadium. Wade Spees/Staff.

When construction was completed in 1999, the Charleston Battery became the first professional soccer club in North America to play in its own privately financed soccer-specific facility.

Over the next 15 years, Blackbaud Stadium hosted events from around the world, including both the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams and clubs from the English Premier League.

The stadium will be getting a mild facelift this weekend, as the Charleston Battery and MUSC on Thursday reached a five-year deal for the naming rights.

It’s officially MUSC Health Stadium beginning Saturday when the Battery faces FC Montreal in a USL match. Neither the Battery or MUSC would release the financial terms of the deal, which will extend through the 2019 season.

MUSC Health has been providing onsite sports medicine services for the club’s players since 2008. MUSC Health will continue as the club’s sole sports medicine provider.

“We are absolutely thrilled to expand our partnership with MUSC Health and their sports medicine team,” said Charleston Battery president Andrew Bell. “For us to play in MUSC Health Stadium really underscores the depth of the partnership. There were very tangible reasons for us to expand our existing relationship with MUSC.”

The 5,100-seat facility opened in 1999 and during the first 15 years of its existence the stadium’s naming rights were owned by Blackbaud Inc., who will continue to be a major partner with the Battery.

Tony Bakker, the soccer club’s principle owner, is also the founder of Blackbaud Inc., which opened its doors in 1981. Blackbaud, Inc., is one of the largest software providers to non-profit organizations in the world. Bakker moved Blackbaud’s headquarters from New York City to Mount Pleasant in 1989. The company eventually settled onto Daniel Island in 1999.

“We’ve have historical links with Blackbaud that date back to our ownership group and that will continue,” Bell said. “Blackbaud is going to be a major partner for us. That relationship is still very strong.”

In addition to professional soccer matches, MUSC Health Stadium will host events including the Special Olympics, the Mount Pleasant Rotary Soccer Classic, the Clash of the Carolinas, plus high school and college soccer matches. For the past several years, the facility has been host to the Southern Ground Music and Food Festival, featuring the Zach Brown Band.

“MUSC Health has been providing Sports Medicine care for the Charleston Battery for the past eight seasons, and we are all very excited about expanding our relationship through the end of the decade while having one of the top USL franchises playing in MUSC Health Stadium,” said Michael Barr, MUSC Health Sports Medicine Program manager. “Our relationship with the Charleston Battery allows us to expand our vision and primary goal of keeping athletes of all ages safe on the playing field.”

Founded in 1993, The Battery is the one of the nation’s oldest professional soccer clubs when measured in terms of continuous operation. The Battery has won four league championships – the most recent a USL Pro title in 2012. The Battery has reached the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals or beyond six times, and the 2008 squad was the tournament runner-up.

“MUSC Health and the Sports Medicine program are delighted and inspired as we forge a deeper relationship with the Charleston Battery in promoting better health throughout our community,” said Shane Woolf, M.D., chief of the MUSC Health Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Service. “Our role with the team is and will continue to be one in which we deliver the highest quality medical care to the elite athletes of one South Carolina’s top and most respected professional teams. Moving forward, we are eager to work together to promote youth sports injury prevention, general health education, and community wellness.”