Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Three Cheers for the Sidekicks #1 Fan!

Fans welcome Dallas Sidekicks' comeback at the Allen Event Center

hen indoor soccer team Dallas Sidekicks folded in 2004 after its 19th season, Alan Balthrop of Plano decided against pulling the plug on his website,

Balthrop had painstakingly compiled every Sidekicks game score, transaction, injury, stat and bit of player trivia that he could find and put it on the site.

The official (and unpaid) team historian spent $120 on web-hosting and $50 on domain renewal out of pocket every year, firm in his belief that the team would be revived.

That devotion was tested every fall, when Balthrop would count the number of years it had been since a Sidekicks season opener.

One. Two. Three. … Eight.

“I never lost hope that we would eventually be back,” Balthrop said. “There will always be next year.”

His faith — and the $40 a month that he paid over five years for a storage unit to house newspaper clippings, team records and championship banners that he rescued from the now defunct Reunion Arena in Dallas — paid off.

Those banners adorned the Allen Event Center on May 1, when the Dallas Sidekicks announced the Nov. 3 kick-off of their 20th season as new members of the Professional Arena Soccer League.

“It’s always been a dream,” said Sidekicks’ former star player Tatu, who will resume coaching duties. “It was unfinished business, the way it ended.”

The team signed a one-year contract to rent the Allen Event Center with the option to renew, said Tim Dentler, director of Allen Parks and Recreation.

“I don’t know that I ever realized the following that they had over the years,” said Dentler, who went to a few Sidekicks games with his son as part of Boy Scout outings. “People are just excited that they’re coming back.”

The new ownership group includes Tatu, former general manager Jim Tobert, former Sidekicks owner J.L. “Sonny” Williams and former sales representative Ronnie Davis as team president.

The Sidekicks will recruit veterans and fresh talent to make up their roster, Davis said.

The event center, which is also home to indoor football and hockey teams Allen Wranglers and Allen Americans, respectively, is perfect for the Sidekicks because of its cozy atmosphere and location, said Tatu, a native of Brazil who lives in Far North Dallas.

“It’s right in the middle of the soccer [community], you know, Richardson, Allen, Plano, McKinney, Frisco,” he said. “That is where the soccer is being played.”

The team hopes to sell out its eight home games, Davis said. The venue has capacity for 6,200.

Four-time league champions Dallas Sidekicks collapsed in 2004 after dwindling numbers in the stands caused financial hardship.

But a contingent of longtime fans has remained loyal. Some, such as Bob Bartlebaugh of Richardson, are already counting down the days.

“If they are going to be reincarnated, I’m going to be there for it,” said Bartlebaugh, 54.

Former season ticket holder Doug Anderson of The Colony said the Allen Event Center will make a great home for the team.

“I think they picked a good venue, and I think it will get a good family value out of this area,” said Anderson, 64.

The Sidekicks will work to become a presence in the community like they were in the past, Davis said. Sidekicks soccer camps are among the memories of a generation of young men and women who grew up in the area.

Coaches and players always had time to chat with fans and fulfill autograph requests, said Bartlebaugh, who would often run into former coach Gordon Jago at the supermarket.

The team’s affability and gratitude toward fans scored goals in many hearts throughout the years, supporters said.

“It truly became a family,” Balthrop said. “That is what I’m really looking forward to, seeing the family coming back together again.”

Neighborsgo reporter Julieta Chiquillo can be reached at 469-330-5671.


Tatu means armadillo in Portuguese. The Brazilian native and Sidekicks coach, whose full name is Antonio Carlos Pecorari, inherited the nickname from his father.

The former Sidekicks forward endeared himself to fans by throwing his jersey to the audience each time he scored a goal.

In Brazil, soccer players traditionally go by their first name or a childhood moniker. These include legends Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Pelé, who is widely considered among the best soccer players of all time.

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