Read Time 5 Minutes
Morgan Copes had a dream over a beer. And then he made it happen. Hear Copes share the story in person Thursday, Nov. 2nd at Avondale Brewery (free) from 5:30-7:00. RSVP Here’s a glimpse;
What’s your background?
“I was born in New Orleans. I moved to Huntsville, Louisville, San Antonio, Tallahassee, Plano, TX, back to San Antonio then I started sixth grade. From sixth grade through high school I lived in Central Texas.
I grew up playing soccer and then I went to LSU for my freshman year and transferred to the University of Mobile and played there. In my off time during the summer I got my coaching license but about 4-5 months before graduation I decided that’s not what I wanted to do.
After that, I was fortunate enough to get a spot in Regions’ Management Associate program which brought me to Birmingham and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve bought property here and I’m heavily invested in this community now.
I absolutely love it. I’ve loved to see where it has gone thus far and am really excited to see hopefully where we as the pro soccer team can take it.”
What do you love about Birmingham?
“The amazing thing about Birmingham is part of why they call it the Magic City-you know how the industrialization and steel mills just popped up overnight.
I bought my place just a little over 5 years ago on Morris Avenue. When I bought it there was no Carrigans, there was no Uptown, there was no Railroad Park, there was no Regions Field, there was no Good People Brewing Company, and there was no Rotary Trail.
Those are 6 staples of this community and this city that didn’t exist 5 years ago and that doesn’t even include all the other developments going on. It’s been truly amazing to see that transformation in the last 5 years.
I think it speaks to the true spirit of the people in this city who just really are gritty people who don’t give up. I really think it’s a wonderful story of this city, all the history that we have, going forward I hope it continues on that path.”
What’s the story of you starting the Birmingham Hammers and now becoming VP of USL Birmingham?
“I love to tell this story because when it got started I was just sitting in a local brewery with a buddy of mine. We were just sitting around and I looked him dead in the eye and said ‘Do you think Birmingham would support a pro soccer team?’ He was like ‘YEAH!’
Of course, we started asking everybody in the brewery and they were all supportive. We did an event where we hosted a professional team from Atlanta, paid their expenses to come over and play against UAB in their final spring season game and we had 2,200 people show up, so we were stoked. That was our first real test of if this was going to work.
We did it again the next year and then the following year had our exhibition season with the Hammers. We weren’t apart of a league but we were able to throw together a rag-tag schedule and throw together a team with a coaching staff and title sponsor.
The following year we jumped into a league and played in that league for 2 years and that leads us to today where a little over 2 months ago we made the announcement that a USL franchise is coming to Birmingham. That mission of the Hammers was always to attract a professional soccer team to the Magic City was accomplished and it’s incredible.
To be honored to be the first hire of that organization is every red-blooded American male’s dream. To sit around, have a beer with your buddy, come up with this idea, and watch it happen over 5 years-it brings a whole new meaning to ‘Hold my beer, watch this.”
What plans do you have for the Birmingham Hammers?
“There will be a much different look, there will be a much different feel and there will be a full-blown professional experience.
Also, players will now be paid. We’re going to cast a global net to find players who are going to give us the best opportunity to win. We haven’t decided on a team name yet but we’ll have to wait to see what happens. We will play in 2018 but won’t play professionally until 2019.”
What do you hope for the new team to bring to Birmingham?
“Trophies. I want us to bring trophies to Birmingham. I think this state is accustomed to winning-they don’t like losers.
Apart from the competitive side, I hope we bring a wonderful community relations aspect to our business as well as to our team. We want to be a part of this community and we want them to be a part of us.
This isn’t my team and this isn’t our owners’ team. This is this city’s team and we want them to embrace it, we want them to feel like its their own, to support it, to treat it with respect, love it and be grateful for it because it wasn’t always here. I think people who have lived here for a long time have seen a lot of teams come and go. I really hope we’re able to set roots in this community.”
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
“This is not about soccer. I got a text from a friend who came to a game with his dad and son. He sent me a video of his 5-year-old son kicking a ball around, having the time of his life. The text said ‘Thanks so much for giving me something to enjoy with my dad and my kid.’ It’s more than just soccer, it’s family-it’s getting to be a part of people’s lives.”
Favorite spot or restaurant in the city?
“Saw’s Juke Joint is probably one of my favorite places ever. The overall hole-in-the-wall vibe with incredible music and food. If I had to pick something downtown, I’m a big fan of Eugene’s Hot Chicken.”
What book has shaped your work or life?
“My coach made us read Mind Gym in high school and it really shaped my positive outlook.”
We’re so excited to have you as our next BOLD Speaker! What are you most excited about?
“I’m excited to answer the questions of everyone that shows up. I think there’s a ton of questions but I really want to get feedback from the people who are going to be our supporters. I want them to know that we care what they think. And we want them to tell us what they want and get their ideas. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to have an open dialogue and that’s what I’m most excited about.”