The soccer community in Detroit just got a little bigger. Detroit City FC has made a new addition to their organization, in the form of their first full-time hire. He’s not a player, nor a coach. Instead, he’s a man with Detroit roots and a longing to make his way back to the metro-Detroit area and revitalize the city.
Meet Donovan Powell, the first-ever General Manager of DCFC. Powell was hired in early February to create stability and growth for a club that already ranks among the National Premier Soccer League’s elite. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, but he’s made lasting and special connections with the state of Michigan.
Powell has family in the Detroit area, and fondly remembers sitting on his grandfather’s lap as a child while listening to the great Ernie Harwell broadcast the Detroit Tigers’ games in the summer. His path from spending time with his grandfather to becoming the GM of DCFC has been long, but rewarding. “I’ve always felt like Detroit, this area, was my home,” Powell said. “I’m very passionate about this area. I’ve always wanted to come back to Detroit.”
After graduating from Clay High School in 2001, Powell became a member of the United States Marine Corps. He was first stationed in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. before heading to Iraq in 2005 where he became a sergeant when Operation Iraqi Freedom was in its beginning stages. Upon returning to America, Powell pursued a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Business at Bowling Green State University before obtaining a master’s in Sports Management at Drexel University.
He’s worked for USA Football, which is the official development partner of the NFL, the NFLPA, and all 32 NFL teams. His main responsibility included running camps for high school players to make that next step to playing collegiately. In nearly two years, Powell managed teams of interns and staff, while increasing brand awareness and generating revenue for the organization.
Less than a year ago, Powell received a job with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, where he worked as a Sales Representative to increase season ticket sales and build relationships with local business owners. He was so successful in boosting revenue for the organization that he was offered a promotion just a couple of weeks ago.
But at the same time, Detroit City FC came calling. He pushed aside the promotion opportunity and pursued the chance to come back to Detroit and work with its rapidly growing soccer community. Powell found the job opening on a site that is geared toward finding sports professionals, and immediately reached out to the club’s ownership. It was 9:30 pm on a Monday night, and Powell was home with his wife. The phone rang. It was Todd Kropp, one of DCFC’s co-owners, who told Powell that the club wanted to go forward with hiring him. It was an evening to celebrate, and soon after Powell could finally make his way north.
His first day on the job was Monday, Feb. 10. After spending much of the day setting up his new office, Powell has now been able to get acquainted with his responsibilities and goals for the upcoming season.
Those duties include: hiring an intern base and overseeing the group, increasing ticket sales DCFC include: hiring an intern base and overseeing the group, increasing ticket sales, (in the 2013 season home games averaged over 1,800 people), developing marketing and brand awareness strategies, developing marketing and brand awareness strategies, executing game day operations, garnering sponsorships, and working with media.
He’ll be a busy man the next few months, but Powell wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s that kind of thing where I’ve always had a love and passion for the city,” Powell said. “I wanted to come back here and really put my roots down, and an opportunity like this — to oversee the organization here — was something I couldn’t pass up.”
He’s had the chance to speak with all of the owners — Kropp, Alex Wright, Sean Mann, Ben Steffans and David Dwaihy — and good discussions about the upcoming season have already come to fruition. Embedded in Detroit’s roots, they decided good food would compliment the quality discussion, giving Powell a taste of Slows BBQ and some DCFC sponsorship.
As the new General Manager, he hopes to make more of an impact on the city, alongside what he’ll be accomplishing with the club. “One of our slogans here is ‘Passion for our city, passion for our game,’ “ Powell said. One of my most important missions is to really deliver on that message. To have this whole soccer community rally around the city, I take that very seriously. I’m going to do everything in my power to build on the city.” His goal is to make summer nights at Cass Tech those events that residents of Metro-Detroit would hate to miss. Building on an already solidified foundation from the past two seasons, Powell expects this summer to be the most successful yet. He might have grown up listening to Ernie Harwell, but now he’ll transition into being serenaded by the booming voices of the Northern Guard.
With that, summer just got a little better.
-- Jeremy Summitt, DCFC Staff Writer