As the leader of the Charleston Battery's new ownership group, Rob Salvatore is taking a hands-on approach to restructuring the club for long-term success. | Photo courtesy Charleston Post & Courier
CHARLESTON, S.C. – As he shadowed the Charleston Battery last season while working toward a deal that would eventually see him lead the club’s new ownership group, Rob Salvatore saw an organization that had tremendous history and potential, but needed a reset in the way its operations were structured.
“I saw a team that was being kept alive, but didn’t necessarily have any vision, strategy, or structure to it,” Salvatore told The USL Show recently. “It had in a way fallen out of relevance in the city, so what we tried to do was get a strategy set and get people focused in areas where we thought it played to their strengths.”
That’s not only meant the arrival of some new faces to the organization this offseason and the reassignment of others, but also Salvatore getting intensely involved on a day-to-day basis as the Battery prepare to start a new era at Patriots Point this spring.
And, with the club’s home debut at its new venue a little over a month away, that’s meant spending plenty of time ensuring that everything will be ready when the Battery welcome fans to their clash with the Philadelphia Union II on March 28.
“I really like what we have planned,” said Salvatore. “They’re starting to move earth around, and a lot more is going to get done in the next couple of weeks. There’s been a lot of planning and preparation that’s been going on, and now stuff is really going to start to happen in earnest, and people will see that. We’ll be releasing some renderings and plans to show everybody what’s going on – I’m really excited about it.”
College of Charleston Director of Athletics Matt Roberts, Rob Salvatore, USL VP of Communications & Public Relations Ryan Madden and Charleston Battery COO Mike Kelleher at the Battery's new venue in Patriots Point. | Photo courtesy Charleston Battery
Restoring a level of local excitement around the Battery as the club enters its 28th season is the biggest goal for Salvatore and his group this year. The longest continually operating professional soccer club in the United States, Charleston has been one of the standard-bearers in the USL for a very long time. The club has been consistently successful, too, winning four titles in its history and reaching the USL Championship Playoffs every season since its launch in 2011.
In recent years, though, that wasn’t always enough to attract big crowds to MUSC Health Stadium. As historic and scenic as the venue was, its location on Daniel Island proved challenging as casual fans needed to take a half-hour drive from downtown Charleston to reach the stadium. Salvatore believes the Patriots Point venue – and the new developments that will arrive soon to surround it – will be more attractive to fans.
“We were looking … to get the club into a more central location where we could draw more population-wise, and also get more young people out to the stadium, where they live, with the colleges and that accessibility,” said Salvatore. “There’s a longer-term development being planned at Patriots Point, where there will be more and more built up around it in that specific location. As stuff start popping up around it and starts locking in, we think we’ve got this thing back on the tracks, and then you get the mass media blitz [ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup], that’s why we’re pretty excited.”
Bermuda international Zeiko Lewis was among the players that kept the Battery a postseason contender last season, and will be back for the new campaign in 2020. | Photo courtesy Charleston Battery
But Salvatore’s plans, and those of co-owner Brandon Lieb and new Chief Revenue Officer Scott Krenitski – whose resume includes prior stints at Google and Pinterest – extend far beyond the experience at the stadium. With their collective experience in the creative field, they believe how the club connects with fans on a day-to-day basis will hold the key to unlocking the passion that has been visible in other USL Championship markets and create an identity that resonates with fans.
With the club’s rebrand serving as the first step in that process, the Battery are ready for fans new and old to help drive the direction of the club over its second quarter-century.
“[We want to] let the [community] in,” said Salvatore. “You’ve got to back it up, but you look at the successful clubs in the Championship, do they have the best community relationships, do they speak most directly to the fabric of those communities, and do those communities come out, and in some ways then if it works, the communities take over the conversation and they drive it for you. You have to give them that pathway, and you have support them and keep it in-bounds, but if you do it right, they become the engine of the whole thing.
“That’s when it gets really, really exciting, and I think there are a couple of teams in our league that are doing an amazing job of it, and I think there’s going to be more and more because of the types of [ownership] groups that are getting involved in [the league] and the type of commitment they have to make it succeed.”