DES MOINES, Iowa -- Fans' hopes are competing with fiscal realities over the $60 million proposed professional soccer stadium that would come to downtown Des Moines.
The Menace's owner, Kyle Krause is leading the effort to bring a USL Championship soccer club to the city, with a campaign called “USL Pro Iowa” to secure funding and build the stadium. Krause said it would be privately and publicly funded, but promoters are seeking $30 million for the project from Polk County, something supervisors said is not economically feasible.
"What I can tell you is the 30 million dollars is just absolutely out of the question from the perspective of the county, we have to think of our taxpayers," Polk County supervisor Matt McCoy said.
According to its website, the soccer-specific stadium would sit on the edge of downtown, near Southwest 14th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. It would hold 6,000 seats, including a fan zone, suites and club seating. The stadium would also serve multiple purposes for other activities like festivals and cultural events.
McCoy said he likes the idea in theory, but the numbers don't work.
"I think it is an ambitious plan and I would say kudos to the Krause family for dreaming big, but ultimately you gotta build something that is to scale and right now I feel like what they’re trying to achieve is so far beyond our governmental capacities," McCoy said.
He said it is important for the county to prioritize taxpayer dollars, and there isn't enough entertainment dollars to invest in such a project at the moment.
The city of Des Moines was also asked to help fund the project. City manager Scott Sanders released the following statement:
"We’re enthusiastic about the prospect of a USL Championship soccer franchise coming to our community. The proposed location south of downtown would build on the long-range development efforts behind our PlanDSM initiative. We look forward to discussing possible public funding mechanisms with our regional partners that would not rely on taxpayer dollars nor have an impact on current and planned City programs and services."
For soccer fans, the pros of having a championship-level team are very appealing. Former head coach of the Drake men's soccer team, Sean Holmes, welcomed the idea with open arms.
"I think it would be fantastic," Holmes said. "Anything that grows soccer and grows the city is a positive I think."
Holmes said he thinks Des Moines has the market for a professional team and hopes something like this would expand the soccer fan-base in the city.
"That’s the challenge for soccer is going outside that hardcore fan base and attracting other people," he said. "I wanna be at a barbecue or a tailgate where other people are excited about soccer and right now that just happens during the World Cup."
McCoy said that he thinks the city has potential for that type of fandom, but it will take a few years to get there.
USL Pro Iowa estimates a professional soccer team would bring in $9.9 million in spending annually in central Iowa.
"I can certainly see the vision in the future but not right now," McCoy said. He thinks it will take years for the city to reach the numbers outlined in USL Pro Iowa's economic impact study.
Even Holmes admitted uncertainty over whether or not the plan will work out numbers-wise.
"I applaud his [Krause] audacity and ambition for going for something this big," Holmes said. "Again my base concern is will this have a real trickle down effect for all other levels in this city and this state."
McCoy said he would be open to hearing different funding proposals from the group that wouldn't require the majority of the project to be funded with taxpayer dollars.
The group says central Iowa must meet an April 1, 2020, deadline to show the USL that "sufficient support and funding mechanisms are in place" to develop the stadium.