sports owner

One Means All for Sports Owner Gary Green

The crack of a bat hitting a baseball and the smell of hotdogs and peanuts bring fond memories of days spent at the ballpark for sports owner Gary Green. His childhood consisted of family trips to Shea Stadium to cheer on Tug McGraw—his former neighbor and pitcher for the New York Mets who he dubbed as “one of the greatest and most interesting Mets of all time.” Green’s early experiences at the stadium ignited his love for the sport, which led the businessman to eventually own three minor league baseball teams, and, most importantly, one baseball and one soccer team in Omaha.

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Green recalled his first meeting with Warren Buffett in 2012 to discuss ownership of the Omaha Storm Chasers—a Minor League Baseball team that is the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. After a 90-minute conversation about their shared love for baseball, Buffett agreed to sell him the team. “He was testing my love for baseball and making sure I had that passion and understood the game that he loved as well,” Green said. With their first press conference approaching, Green asked Buffett for an introduction as the new owner of the team, but he was quickly cut off. “You may own the team on paper, but this team belongs to Omaha,” Buffett said. Green immersed himself in the Midwest’s culture, and Buffett welcomed him to Omaha with open arms. “I felt right at home and that my career kickstarted again because I was with like-minded people,” Green said. “I knew this is where I wanted to be and belonged.”

Seven years after stepping into the baseball business, Green expanded his ownership into soccer and created Union Omaha—the only professional soccer team in Nebraska and winners of the 2021 United Soccer League (USL) League One Championship. Between two Omaha sports teams and one shared stadium at Werner Park, Green took a deeper look at soccer and what it meant in Omaha. For Green, the team’s mission extends beyond simply filling seats in a stadium—it is to build the sports and entertainment industries, attract young people to Omaha, and create experiences and lasting memories. “Young people gravitate toward professional soccer—it’s a communal environment where they’re all in it together and they love it,” Green said. “This is something different that young people can connect to, and I feel like there’s a need for that in Omaha.”

Green recognizes that a new stadium dedicated to soccer has to happen. And it doesn’t stop with Union Omaha. Starting a women’s team, building more youth opportunities, keeping and attracting young people, and tackling diversity make up the mission’s core purpose. “Having a soccer-specific stadium and a men’s team that is one level below the MLS has the ability to change the Omaha entertainment landscape for a long period of time.” Green continued, “Having a professional division one women’s team that has the top players in the world would allow Omaha to have its first major league team since the NBA Omaha Kings in 1975. That’s really exciting.” 

Green believes a primary driver to keeping Generation Z and Millennials in Omaha as well as attracting new talent is cultural experiences. Green said, “A new stadium will help Omaha retain professionals, create a diverse environment, and attract and keep young people. Now that I understand what soccer means both nationally and in Omaha, I’ve never had more conviction.”

Green credits other local sports such as Nebraska football and Creighton basketball for creating exceptional sports experiences. “Soccer is the fastest growing game in the world. We [Union Omaha] and the major league women’s soccer team want to put our flag in the ground and have our place as two more of the great Omaha sports teams.”

 The mission extends to the Chasers in a similar realm, and Green attributes this to his childhood memories at Mets games. At the major league level, Green said two owners he looks up to are Jon Ledecky of the New York Islanders and Steve Cohen of the Mets. Often found high-fiving fans or out on center field, Green said he admires how they treat fans like family so they feel more involved. He said he always keeps this mentality in mind as he walks around at games. Legendary baseball owner Bill Veeck once said, “In baseball, the people with the most knowledge are usually the people sitting furthest from the field.” At Chasers games, Green attempts to go to the farthest reaches of the stadium to talk to fans, “And then we’ll talk baseball for half an hour.”

For Green, conversations with fans and his praise toward his major league role models play a vital role in how he views the baseball industry. When speaking to his staff, he recognizes their impact beyond collecting tickets and selling merchandise. “There’s no other job where they have the ability to create memories for families for the rest of their lives, especially because with baseball we can’t control what happens on the field,” he said. “We’re not in the baseball business—we’re in the memory-making business.”

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant disruption to sporting events worldwide. Although the Owls and Chasers seasons were over, Green looked for other ways to add value to the community. “We had to pivot from a baseball and soccer team to an organization that was there to help the community.” Some of these efforts included both organizations donating 500,000 masks to city hospitals, and hosting socially-distanced fireworks shows where people stayed in their cars. “We told ourselves that we’re not a sports team right now, we are a community organization and the community needs us.”

Growing the Omaha sports and entertainment industries means creating experiences, opportunities, and powerful memories that will last a lifetime. The importance of a new soccer stadium represents more than a designated home for the Owls—it will give fans that family-feel connection to ownership that sports teams strive to create. How does Green feel to be a part of two teams on a mission to enrich Omaha’s cultural experiences? “I feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to make a difference in such an amazing city. The opportunity is tremendous and it will be amazing.”

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