Hart Park in Wauwatosa will host a professional soccer team in 2017 as the Milwaukee Torrent will make the move from Uihlein Park to the multi-use venue.
"The Torrent are excited to call Hart Park our new home," Torrent owner Andy Davi said. "We will be practicing on the same field where our matches will be held, and this is important for our players.”
The Torrent play in the National Professional Soccer League, a fourth level league that has over 80 teams throughout the United States. The team will be a part of the Midwest region -- one of four regions in the league -- and play in the Central division. The number of teams in the division and the region is still up in the air but will be settled on by the time the Torrent take the field in April.
City officials including Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley worked to bring the team to Wauwatosa over the past few weeks. The relationship grew as the discussions went on and now the team, the city and private citizens are all pleased with the positive outcome.
“In the last 15 years, Wauwatosa has invested in the transformation of Hart Park," Ehley said. "We're proud of the caliber of our facilities and excited that Milwaukee's only professional outdoor soccer team, the Milwaukee Torrent, will call Hart Park home. This latest addition to our park reinforces our commitment to a healthy lifestyle and will encourage adults and children to be active and have fun.”
Hart Park has a capacity of 4,625 and currently hosts events including Marquette University High School and Wauwatosa East football games, Marquette University lacrosse games as well as events from other Milwaukee area teams and organizations. The 35-acre park along the Menomonee River also is home to a nature park and hiking trails, a picnic area, playground and a public ice rink.
Tom Ertl, president of the Wauwatosa Parks and Forestry Board, thinks Hart Park has all of the amenities needed to host a professional soccer team. He mentioned parking, stadium capacity, restaurants and bars, a beautiful neighborhood and a plan to remodel the locker rooms as evidence that the move makes sense for both the city and the Torrent.
"With the growth of Wauwatosa, we are positioned well to have the Torrent as a tenant," Ertl said.
Davi said the move from Uihlein Park has already produced higher season ticket sales and increased sponsorships. There is also a large youth soccer culture that is strong in Wauwatosa with the Tosa Kickers having over 1,000 children participating each year.
"We are at a place now where potential sponsors, companies are coming to me and asking what can we do to get on your jerseys," Davi said. "We are getting great support from the business community. We needed a home, not just a facility we rent. I see this becoming our home for years. To have a good home you need to have neighbors that you work with and have a mutual relationship with."
As the only outdoor professional soccer team in the area, Davi feels excitement from what this move does for the future of his squad. The passion he has for soccer and now the community in which it will play is showing up in his voice and on his face.
"I do soccer all of my life," Davi said. "That’s all I can do is soccer."