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Being from Buffalo, Brad Termini knows very well what a professional sports team means to the psyche of a city.
The Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres are part of the identity of Buffalo, and without either of them, there would be a huge hole to fill.
Brad Termini’s Zephyr Partners is constructing a sprawling complex for marijuana cultivation and manufacturing, using 72.4 acres of vacant land in the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park.
And small-market Buffalo has had plenty of past brushes with rumors that the Bills, potentially, could move out of town.
“That spirit and what athletics do for you is instilled in you while growing up in Buffalo,” said Termini, founder and CEO of California-based Zephyr Partners and son of Buffalo developer Rocco Termini.
“If you grow up in Buffalo, you understand what sports mean to a community. I don’t think anybody values their NFL team quite like we do,” he added.
As Zephyr Partners begins the first phase of construction on its new cannabis campus in South Buffalo, the California firm is seeking to set up a career-training program at the Northland Corridor building occupied by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
So, when San Diego – the place the Buffalo ex-pat now calls home – lost its Chargers football team, which moved to Los Angeles in 2020, Termini desperately wanted to do something to help a city reeling from the loss.
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He wanted to bring professional sports back to the area and began what became a two-year process of pursuing the expansion rights to a team in Major League Soccer.
In May, the ownership group, which includes Termini as a founding partner, closed on the transaction, and is now ramping up operations in preparation to start playing as the league’s 30th team in 2025.
“It started with a deep desire to do something great within the San Diego community we live in,” said Termini, who remembers first being inspired by the power of sports at the age of 7 while attending the first game at the new downtown Buffalo baseball stadium, formerly known as Pilot Field, on April 14, 1988.
“We’re passionate about what professional sports can do for a community,” he continued.
The financial backing from a subsidiary of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. will bring vast resources to the ambitious project, which was in limbo a year ago as the state moved slowly to legalize recreational cannabis.
Termini isn’t exactly a soccer guy, though.
Always fascinated by California, he came to San Diego on a whim about 20 years ago after graduating from the University at Buffalo. Since then, much of his focus has been on his investment firm that is spearheading a project to create a $200 million high-tech cannabis campus in South Buffalo, with both growing and product manufacturing facilities. That project is about two-thirds completed, with construction slated to be done in the first part of next year.
But he has also taken notice of the explosive growth of the MLS and the sport, which will be showcased in the U.S. in 2026 with the FIFA World Cup coming to North America.
MLS is the fastest growing league by economic value, and Termini said he can see that trend accelerating with global soccer star Lionel Messi now playing for the league’s Miami FC franchise.
“That was an incredible thing to get interest in the league, globally,” he said. “We have a unique opportunity here for us to capitalize on.”
Plans for a new $200 million marijuana growing and production facility in South Buffalo are back on track.
In addition, San Diego is the No. 1 youth soccer market in the world, by concentration of kids who play organized soccer, Termini said.
“San Diego is a community with a rich sporting history and long considered the heart of soccer development in North America,” said Tom Penn, the team’s CEO. “With the addition of MLS, we will inspire lasting change through the sport in San Diego, and unite soccer fans throughout the region.”
Termini is part of an ownership group that includes the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, a tribe residing in and around San Diego for more than 12,000 years, and the Mansour family, which brings a deeper connection and investment in global soccer.
Leading the way is Mohamed Mansour, the founder and chairman of the London-based investment management firm Man Capital, which owns Right to Dream, the global soccer community of world-class academies, clubs and partners with an innovative approach to identifying and nurturing talent.
“It’s the perfect mix of global soccer expertise and deep local business expertise,” Termini said.
Two Buffalo expats and longtime friends are offering to cover all the funeral expenses up to $50,000 for the 10 victims of Saturday’s hatred-fueled attack at the Tops Markets store on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo.
Right now, they are building the critical components of an organization, with some ambitious goals to reach by 2025.
MLS has an expansion draft like other U.S. sports leagues, but, in soccer, there are large pools of talent to pull from around the world.
“It’s about building the core team that will help launch the club, not only from a commercial perspective, but also on the field,” Termini said.
The team will play at Snapdragon Stadium, a 35,000-seat venue, but Termini’s company is also leading the effort to build a MLS training facility and youth academy in San Diego.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it, but there’s a lot of work to do,” he said.
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