To a casual observer it might seem that Jeffrey Rotwitt has a carefree career. He owns the area’s indoor professional soccer team, the Kixx. He’s chairman of the rapidly expanding Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). And he co-owns the Tri State Sports complex, the 32-acre practice facility for the Kixx; the Philadelphia Soul, Jon Bon Jovi’s arena football team; and the Philadelphia Wings, the pro lacrosse team. Life must be a ball.
But Rotwitt’s work is about more than box seats and rock stars. While fans are in their seats cheering on defender Pat Morris, Rotwitt is on the road firming up deals for new expansion teams, wooing sponsors, teaching entrepreneurship at Penn Law or tending to his clients as the chairman of the corporate and real estate groups at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel. The business of fun is hard work.
Rotwitt took over the Kixx in 2000. It wasn’t a challenge he sought. “I initially said no,” he says. “I was already burning the candle at both ends.” But pressure from team officials and executives from Comcast, the company that owns Wachovia Spectrum Arena, where the soccer team plays, got to him. “I succumbed either in a grand moment of insight or intoxication,” he says with a laugh.
Rotwitt’s first year of Kixx ownership was a honeymoon kiss; the team won the league championship in the 2001-02 season. “I considered retiring since I figured I could go nowhere but downhill from there,” Rotwitt says. Indeed, the Kixx suffered two upsets in subsequent playoffs, and in the 2005-06 season the Milwaukee Wave led the league as the team struggled to integrate new players.
In 2005, Rotwitt was elected to a two-year term as chairman of the MISL Management Committee, the league’s chief governing body. As chairman, Rotwitt has two primary goals — securing a national TV contract and creating “intelligent expansion” of the league (which currently has six teams) into such cities as Detroit, Newark, Las Vegas and Atlanta. “We had 13 teams when I first got in the league, some for historical or hodgepodge reasons,” Rotwitt says. “I want to focus on creating appropriate geographic rivalries and the diversity a national TV audience would want.”
Rotwitt has shortened the season from 40 to 30 games to better manage budgets and negotiations with arenas for game dates. “The more games you play, the more you’re competing with Disney on Ice or Bruce Springsteen for the good [venue] dates,” he says. “Bunching games together also aids in marketing and attendance.”
Indoor soccer resembles hockey more than it does outdoor soccer — it’s a fast-paced game where the ball can be played off walls and no off-sides exist. Once people discover the game, Rotwitt insists they will become hooked. “It has what the average American sports fan wants — a lot of physical contact, high energy and high scoring,” he says.
Rotwitt’s having a blast in his role as soccer mogul and has no plans to stop anytime soon. “If I thought I could make money growing asparagus or beets, I’m not sure I would,” he says. “It wouldn’t have had the same allure.”