"Any local team is worth supporting IF that team supports the community."
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Good morning AP readers, welcome back! Before we dive in, I want to take a moment to recognize those of you who have decided to support AP on Patreon. All of your support goes right back into making the website the best it can be, and will help it continue long into the future. Special thanks to Liam Hogan, Jeff Organ, Tobias Carroll, Kevin Johnston, David Corey, Mitchell Lawson, and Aaron Gunyon.
Now, today's interview is with Andrew Weilgus, one of the founds of new National Premier Soccer League club Atlantic City FC. If you haven't been keeping tabs on these guys, you should start doing so now. They've got big dreams, and the skills, connections and know how to pull it off. Check it out.
Tell readers a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what your roll is with Atlantic City FC.
My name is Andrew Weilgus, and my business partner Nick Bilotta and I are the co-owners of Atlantic City FC. Nick and I have been business partners since 1996 when we met as Freshman at Syracuse University and started our first company, GetLiveMusic.com, together. The idea was to create instant CD's of concerts that bands like the Allman Brothers, Phish and others who were known for their live music could sell minutes after a concert was over. Fast forward 7 years and we got a chance to work with the Allman's creating instant CD's of every tour concert. After we sold that business we started QuizzoTrivia.com, which brought the popular Quizzo Live Trivia contest to bars and restaurants around the country (over 25 states to date).
I earned my masters degree at The University of Pennsylvania while living down the shore near AC. The first time I ever went to Atlantic City was March 2,7 1988, with my father and cousin to see Wrestlemania 4. I remember thinking how much fun it would be to live where people vacationed so I decided to make the move permanent. Nick grew up down here so it was a natural.
Once we were here, both of us got involved in fantasy sports. It eventually led to a job with DirecTV's Fantasy Zone Channel 704 as a research producer. I somehow get paid to watch football after spending 30 years of paying to watch football so It really was a dream come true. At a certain point through conversation Nick and I decided it was absurd AC did not have single sports team despite 20 million tourists and a world wide brand so we decided to undertake the task of creating one.
How did you come to be a fan of soccer?
I played until my high school coach made me choose between Soccer and Baseball. My father married a woman from North London who got me into Arsenal. I was also a big fan of the US Men's national team in the 90's, particularly Tony Meola. As a Jets fan I'll never forget his tryouts for the team.
Having never been to Atlantic City, how you describe your city? What makes it fun and unique? Why is it a good place for a soccer team?
I like to think of Atlantic City as Mini Monaco. Our sponsor, the Tropicana, is like a city unto itself with 24 restaurants and 26 stores. There are 270,000 full time residents in the county but 20,000,000 + tourists a year. The people here are genuinely nice, kind and passionate people and it's going to be amazing to see that passion come out in support for this team. We are blessed with tremendous cultural diversity in Atlantic County and the team plans on celebrating that.
You and Nick decided to join the NPSL. What did the process of finding and selecting a league to play look like? There are so many options now at the national, local, and in some places regional, level, that makes me really curious about how new teams are going about doing the homework of finding and choosing a league.
We looked at all options, including starting in a higher division, but in the end the NPSL was the perfect fit for us. The league has a lot of momentum and some tremendous people working for it and in it. I will say this, we were very impressed by all the leagues we've spoken to from the USL to the UPSL but in the end we are blessed to be with the NPSL and we're looking forward to the leagues continued growth.
Having goals is important for any business venture. What do you feel the team needs to accomplish in year one to consider it a success?
Our main goal is to provide a great experience for our fans and our players. That is the only goal we have for year one. We'd love to be successful on the pitch but building a team culture that is positive and lasting while integrating ourselves in the Atlantic County community is the main focus.
How has the community responded since the announcement that Atlantic City will be joining the NPSL for the 2018 season?
The community has responded in a very positive way. It's only the beginning but we will work tirelessly to make sure everyone knows we are here. We have a local soccer enthusiast named Dylan who founded our first supporters club, Atlantic Revenge, and our graphics guy loved the name so much he chipped in with a cool logo.
Since it sounds like you have some real ambition for the club, where do you hope to see Atlantic City FC five years from now?
Within five years we hope to grow the soccer culture in south New Jersey and help produce a clear, cost free pipeline for top local talent to get the best training available to help them further their goals. There are plenty of things we would love to see happen with our club but a lot of that will work itself out within the greater US soccer structure over time. We are VERY happy to be part of the NPSL and believe the entire league is ambitious so we're thrilled to see where it all goes.
Let's wrap this up with some short questions. What's your favorite league and or team to watch for fun?
I'm a giant fan of the global game and I have teams in every league I follow because of their interesting culture and history. That includes Arsenal, AFC Wimbledon, and St. Pauli FC but I try to follow all global and domestic leagues as much as possible. I've woken up at 5:00 am and watched Sydney FC several times recently, its amazing that on any given day you can watch this amazing sport around the world.
Favorite soccer players, one past, one present.
Thierry Henry - and anyone who doesn't recognize we are living in the era of two of the greatest living players ever in Messi and Ronaldo isn't paying attention.
Do you have any books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend to people reading this?
We are about to start the NPSLpodcast.com - we'd love to have you on!
Here are the books I've asked our players to read before we start the season: Leading: By Alex Ferguson and LEGACY: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life.
If you could meet one person from soccer history, who would it be?
George Best, tortured soul but the life of the party.
Where can people find out more about you and the team online?
www.AtlanticCityFC.com and we are on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Last question for the interview: What would you say to someone asking you why they should get out there and support their local amateur team, like Atlantic City FC?
Any local team is worth supporting IF that team supports the community. What I mean by that is the team needs to do things in the communities best interests. That means being selfless, not profiteering and focusing on ways they can inspire young kids who look up to them. When that happens, a bond is formed and there is legitimate magic in that relationship. When you look at what Detroit City FC supporters have done for their club and city and what their club is in turn doing for them it is nothing short of incredible. And a lot of that gets lost the higher up the pro ranks you get. Some teams still do a great job of community outreach, don't get me wrong, but at the lower levels, there is no social divide between the players and the fans and that makes for a more authentic experience if it is done right.
Drew, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, please consider supporting us on Patreon by Clicking Here. Or you can click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.
Read last weeks interview: TTown Soccer: Matt Boullt of Tulsa Athletic