– The San Antonio Scorpions FC will play the first home match of the 2013 North American Soccer League (NASL) season at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the team’s colorful new, 8,000-seat home – Toyota Field – thanks to an inspiring 19-year-old, Morgan Hartman.
“Morgan is the young lady responsible for pro soccer in San Antonio,” said her father, philanthropist Gordon Hartman, head of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation. “Her positive outlook in dealing with physical and cognitive challenges inspired so many in the community that it led to the opening in 2010 of Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind but built for everyone to enjoy.
“Shortly thereafter came Soccer for a Cause, a grassroots effort to establish professional soccer in San Antonio, and ultimately the creation of the Scorpions franchise. It’s all about helping non-profit Morgan’s Wonderland meet its financial obligations as well as expand programs and services to benefit the special-needs community.”
In a rarity for the world of sports, all net profits from the Scorpions, Toyota Field and nearby STAR (South Texas Area Regional) Soccer Complex, with its 13 first-class fields for league and tournament play, will flow to Morgan’s Wonderland, Hartman noted. Already Scorpions profits and a generous gift from The Boeing Co. have resulted in STRAPS (South Texas Regional Adaptive and Paralympic Soccer), which enables wheelchair, powerchair, Paralympic and Special Olympics athletes to enjoy the world’s most popular game.
“To the best of our knowledge, this marks the first time a professional sports team has been organized solely to benefit a non-profit cause helping those with special needs,” Hartman said. “The Scorpions had an incredible inaugural season in 2012, winning the NASL regular-season championship. We’re optimistic about another successful season this year in a beautiful stadium designed to put fans really close to the action.”
The Scorpions will open the 2013 NASL season on the road April 6 versus the Minnesota Stars FC and play the April 13 home opener against last year’s playoff champs, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, at Toyota Field. On Aug. 28, 2012, global automaker Toyota announced its presenting sponsorship of Toyota Field, which is capable of expansion in stages to 18,000 seats. In addition to Scorpions soccer, Toyota Field will host concerts, community activities and special events. It’s located adjacent to Morgan’s Wonderland at the intersection of Wurzbach Parkway and Thousand Oaks Drive just west of IH 35 in Northeast San Antonio.
Hartman sold his homebuilding business in 2005 to devote – along with wife Maggie – time, vision and energy to philanthropic pursuits. They began with Morgan’s Wonderland so people of all ages with and without disabilities could come together in a safe, totally wheelchair-accessible theme park for fun and understanding. Now in its fourth year of operation, Morgan’s Wonderland features more than 25 attractions including rides, playscapes and gardens spread out over 25 acres in what once was a limestone quarry. The park admits anyone with a cognitive or physical special need free of charge.
“Morgan’s Wonderland continues to exceed expectations, profoundly touching the lives of special-needs children and adults, their families and friends,” Hartman said. “Thus far, we’ve welcomed more than 300,000 guests from all 50 states and 36 other countries. This level of activity requires substantial financial resources in order to accommodate more guests and provide more services and programs to the special-needs community.”
Sensing an opportunity to benefit Morgan’s Wonderland for the long run, Hartman launched Soccer for a Cause and in fall 2010 secured an NASL franchise that built a strong foundation of community support. This included a name-the-team contest, a logo-design competition and an online vote of fans to select the Scorpions’ uniform.
“We’ve worked hard to field a high-quality soccer team and build a first-class stadium,” Hartman said. “All along the way, we’ve drawn inspiration from those with special needs that daily must deal with hard-to-imagine challenges.”
Another outgrowth of Morgan’s Wonderland is Monarch Academy school for students with special needs. It’s located next door to the theme park and accommodates students from 6th grade through high school.
More information about the San Antonio Scorpions FC is available at www.SAScorpions.com, http://www.Facebook.com/SanAntonioScorpions or http://www.Twitter.com/SAScorpions. Additional Morgan’s Wonderland information is located at www.MorgansWonderland.com or by calling (210) 495-5888. Information about Toyota Field is available at www.ToyotaField.com, and more about Monarch Academy can be found at www.MonarchAcademy.net.