Best Minds: Justin Papadakis, COO & Chief Real Estate Officer, United Soccer League

September 14, 2021
By Joshua Boren, Managing Director, Strategic Initiatives
Podcast Sports-Anchored Mixed-Use Development

How does the United Soccer League (USL) view real estate as an integral part of their expanding business?

In this episode of Conversations with the Best Minds in Real Estate, Managing Director Joshua Boren speaks with United Soccer League’s Global Chair/Founder, Justin Papadakis, about starting a career working for real estate companies before transitioning to join the “family business” of USL. Papadakis discusses the changing landscape of live entertainment, the impacts on stadium and venue design, and how the USL responds to these long-term trends. He addresses the complexity of stadium deals and the importance of creating partnerships with local communities across the municipal, business, and philanthropic sectors throughout the U.S.

“We get to play a part not only in transforming communities, but also in having a significant economic impact. It’s exciting, humbling, and it’s something we’re really proud of.” – Justin Papadakis

About Justin Papadakis & United Soccer League

Papadakis joined the USL in December of 2014 when he was named President of Commercial Ventures. In May of 2016, he began his role as the league’s Chief Operating Officer before adding the title of Chief Real Estate Officer, as he oversees one of the key areas of the league’s growth in future years. Over the past four years, he has facilitated an unprecedented surge in soccer-specific and mixed-use stadium developments anchoring economic live, work, and play projects across the country, extending far beyond the pitch while amplifying the fan experience for current and future USL communities.

The United Soccer League (USL) is the largest and fastest-growing professional soccer organization in North America, possessing more than a decade of experience in bringing the world’s game to communities across the United States and Canada. Based in Tampa, Florida, the USL has grown during the past decade into a model organization with strong corporate partnerships and stable organizational leadership. It features a dedicated staff of more than 60 professionals across 17 departments ranging from operations, digital, communications, and club services, each of which provides unparalleled support to member clubs and outside partners. Sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation, the USL is #UnitedForSoccer, moving the game forward in North America.

About Joshua Boren & RCLCO

Joshua A. Boren specializes in leading business development, marketing, and strategic initiatives for various real estate needs and solutions as part of the RCLCO team. With nearly 15 years of experience, Joshua specializes in understanding how network building and relationship management are critical to organizational success, which has resulted in millions of dollars of closed engagements. Before RCLCO, Joshua led global business development efforts for world-renown sports architect Dan Meis, where he spent nearly a decade becoming one of the foremost business experts and specialists in the stadium, arena, and venue design and development sector. Incredibly involved in the global real estate community, Joshua holds membership and leadership positions at Urban Land Institute Los Angeles and Jewish Federation Los Angeles’ Real Estate and Construction Division, among others.

RCLCO is proud to be the “first call” for real estate developers, investors, the public sector, and non-real estate organizations seeking strategic and tactical advice regarding property investment, planning, and development. RCLCO leverages quantitative analytics and a strategic planning framework to provide end-to-end business planning and implementation solutions at an entity, portfolio, or project level.

Topics in this episode include:

  • Justin’s role at the USL and how he began his real estate career in the retail power center sector (2:15)
  • The scale of the USL’s real estate program and ongoing projects in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and Spokane, Washington (4:46)
  • The professional satisfaction that comes with playing a small part in physically transforming communities (9:15)
  • The complexity of stadium deals and the importance of creating partnerships with local communities across the municipal, business, and philanthropic sectors throughout the U.S. (11:31)
  • Putting in the work to hear from the community about what they want out of a stadium development (16:04)
  • The changing landscape of live entertainment, the impacts to stadium and venue design, and how the USL responds to these long-term trends (18:22)
  • The importance of hands-on mentorship to create professional development opportunities for young leaders (21:49)
  • Justin’s transition from working for real estate companies to joining the “family business” of the USL (28:08)
  • How the USL provides resources for young leaders to grow and advance their careers (31:15)
  • Why developers should be partnering with the USL on real estate opportunities (35:10)

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