Armada Introduces New Owner

Jacksonville Armada's new owner, real estate entrepreneur Robert Palmer, is introduced to the media by NASL Interim Commissioner Rishi Sehgal. Photo by NASL

By JAKE NUTTING

nasl logoThe Jacksonville Armada’s status as a league-operated team came to an end on Tuesday morning when local real-estate entrepreneur Robert Palmer was introduced as the team’s newest owner.

Palmer’s acquisition of the Armada offers the team and its supporters relief  after six months in limbo while being run on resources from the North American Soccer League front office. The Armada’s founding owner Mark Frisch transferred ownership of the team to the NASL last December after two seasons when it became clear he could no longer provide sufficient funding.

Robert Palmer Companies, which Palmer is the chief executive of, includes several companies involved in financing and marketing of $5 billion in residential real-estate. His flagship mortgage lending company RP Funding will be placed prominently on Armada jerseys. Palmer, a Lakeland, Fla., native, also struck a deal earlier this year to rename his hometown arena to the RP Funding Center for a reported $5 million.

“While sports ownership has been a dream of mine since I was young, the business opportunity with Armada FC and the NASL was simply too good to pass up,” Palmer said. “I care deeply about the Jacksonville market and have both personal and professional interests in the area. My team at Robert Palmer Companies and I look forward to bringing our proven marketing and business strategies to this outstanding organization.”

In his first moves as owner, Palmer attempted to bring some stability to the Armada. Coach Mark Lowry and technical director Nathan Walter were both signed to contracts through 2021, a reward for the two guiding the Armada to its best start in team history in spite of limited resources.

Additionally, Palmer announced that the team has secured the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium as its home for next season. The team moved to Hodges this year after the high cost of converting Community First Park from a baseball diamond to a soccer field hastened its financial issues under Frisch.

For the moment, Palmer is playing down the possibility of constructing a stadium for the Armada. Instead, he said he is focused on finding a location to build an office and training facilities in Jacksonville to bring all his companies and the Armada under one roof.

“I am delighted to present Robert Palmer as the new owner of Jacksonville Armada FC,” said Rishi Sehgal, the league’s interim commissioner. “He has tremendous entrepreneurial savvy as a businessman and a strong belief in the growth potential of both the sport of soccer and the city of Jacksonville. Under Robert’s guidance and leadership, Armada FC fans and the soccer community in Jacksonville will have exciting times ahead.”

With Palmer coming on board, the NASL has raised its number of confirmed teams for next year to 10. San Diego and Orange County, Calif., were already set to join as expansion markets, but NASL leadership was hesitant about committing to bring back the Armada for a second season as a league-operated team.