Six-time MLB All-Star will elevate soccer club’s position within Las Vegas’s exploding pro sports scene
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Jan. 16, 2024) – Las Vegas Lights FC today welcomed decorated former Major League Baseball star José Bautista as its new principal owner, immediately elevating its profile within the exploding pro sports landscape in Las Vegas. As primary investor, Bautista will assume the role of chairman and governor of the club ahead of the 2024 USL Championship season kickoff in March.
“Las Vegas is the place to be and has emerged as a big professional sports town, and I will do everything I can to push this club forward,” said Las Vegas Lights principal owner José Bautista. “As a soccer fan and former professional athlete, I am excited to be involved with the world’s game, Since my retirement from professional baseball, I have witnessed the incredible growth of soccer in the United States, and I look forward to sharing my love of sports with the Las Vegas soccer community.”
Since his retirement from professional baseball, Bautista has established himself as an active and thoughtful investor, board member, philanthropist and entrepreneur. His on-field prowess and reputation as an ethical businessman has led to partnerships with significant brands, including Audi, Hublot, Coca-Cola, TD Bank, Fanatics, General Mills, The Players Tribune, Silver Jeans, Booster Juice (Canada), Pizza Pizza (Canada) and New Balance.
Bautista was an early equity partner, lead investor, and board member for Marucci Sports, a baseball equipment startup that was sold to Compass Diversified Holdings in 2020. Additional business interests include stakes in Canada Goose, which went public in 2017, and Endy Sleep, which was acquired by Sleep Country in 2018, and currently serves as a Partner and Senior Advisor to Aquilance, a leading household financial management firm that assists successful individuals, entrepreneurs and families to make better-informed financial decisions and save time on administrative tasks.
Bautista is passionate about supporting the community and has committed himself as a resource to athletes around the world. He founded the Bautista Family Education Fund in 2011, which provides support and assistance to student-athletes aspiring to attend university programs in the United States and Canada.
“Throughout my playing career, I recognized the importance of giving back in meaningful, intentional ways,” Bautista said. “Likewise, as an owner, I am committed to having a real impact on the local community and fostering a deep connection with the people of Las Vegas.”
Over a 15-year career in Major League Baseball, Bautista was one of the most feared sluggers of his era, with 344 career home runs. He played for eight clubs, most notably the Toronto Blue Jays, who recently awarded him the “Level of Excellence” to recognize his outstanding achievements over his ten seasons
in Toronto. He was named an MLB All-Star six years in a row from 2010-15 and twice led the majors in home runs, in 2010 and 2011, the same years he won the Hank Aaron Award.
Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Bautista represented his home country at the 2020 Summer Olympics (delayed until 2021 due to COVID-19) in Tokyo, Japan. His leadership helped the D.R. earn a bronze medal, punctuated by a walk-off hit and his signature bat flip that sealed the win over Israel to secure the team’s place in the semifinals.
“José’s vision and values align perfectly with our league’s ambitions and the positive impact our clubs are having in their local communities,” said USL Deputy CEO and Chief Real Estate Officer Justin Papadakis. “José is the latest in a recent series of world-class athletes to invest in USL clubs, a clear indication of our league’s increased prominence in the professional sports industry and the real value proposition of investing in soccer today. The game is growing rapidly in the United States, and our clubs are bringing high-level professional soccer to communities across the country, providing long-term economic development and creating positive social impact every day.”
Lights FC debuted in the USL Championship in 2018. The club, which plays at historic Cashman Field in downtown Las Vegas, has been known for its unconventional matchday experience, coach hires, player signings, and kit designs.
“José brings a competitive athlete’s mindset to everything he does, and he will certainly bring new expectations for the club’s performance, on and off the field,” said USL President Paul McDonough. “Jose’s vision for the sporting side is ambitious, including the acquisition of international players and the forming of an academy. We will support Jose during this transition period and look forward to seeing Lights FC shine brighter than ever in Vegas.”
Lights FC will open their 2024 USL Championship campaign on Saturday, March 9, at Memphis 901 FC before returning to Cashman Field to host FC Tulsa on Saturday, March 16. Click here to see the Lights’ full 2024 schedule.