JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The stoppages caused by the global pandemic have put a strain on sports leagues and organizations all over the globe.
And for the Jacksonville Armada, there are additional challenges. News4Jax sports anchor Cole Pepper has the latest on how the Armada is handling the COVID-19 crisis.
It’s an uncertain time for the Armada. After spending the first three years of the club’s existence in the North American Soccer League, the Armada saw that league fold. So, for the past two seasons, they played in the NPSL—the National Professional Soccer League, a league two levels below where the NASL was. Now the Armada is looking for a new league. But with the shutdowns, THAT task has been made even more difficult.
“We are working with multiple leagues to try and find out what's the best situation,” Walter said. “We obviously have the stadium, which is a super exciting thing for the professional leagues, and for Jacksonville, and until that becomes a little bit more clear, we're still doing our due diligence on everything, and trying to make sure that the sustainability and stability of the Armada is first and foremost.”
The stadium Walter mentions is the approval for the land use for a stadium near the sports complex. So far, ground has not been broken. And while the pandemic has every soccer league in the United States at a standstill, there’s not a lot that he can do to move the ball forward for the club.
“We're still working hard behind the scenes, talking with people trying to make sure we've got the right programming, with the stadium,” Walter said. “But in regards to actually potentially putting shovels in the ground, is just too far away to really understand what that looks like.”
So in the meantime, the club has instituted a new after school program in conjuncture with Duval and St. Johns county schools to introduce the game to elementary school children.
“It’s a pressure-free environment. There’s no winning there’s no losing,” Walter said. “It’s just learning those basic techniques to potentially say, you know, Mama Dada, I like this game I enjoy this game and soccer tonight. I want to do. And, and obviously I’m very aware that there’s a huge participation level within the game, currently across Northeast Florida. So we can start engaging them a little younger and really grow the game, I think we’re ready to move the community.”
Walter says he would love to find a future pro through the program, but the bigger push is to help introduce the game at a younger age and grow the soccer community in northeast Florida.