There are very few things that excite me as much as the thought of a USL team finding a home in Des Moines. As news pops up here, here and here, the anticipation builds. In the spirit of not completely armchair quarterbacking this whole thing, and realizing I’m just a fan sitting in a comfortable chair in a suburban neighborhood of the Des Moines metro, I just have to throw out some ideas that I believe would be for the best of the development of a Des Moines club.
Design the stadium for capacity scaling. The reports suggest the stadium will be between 6,000 and 8,000 capacity. As of Week 33 in the USL Championship matches, the average attendance was 4,476. Now, building a stadium that has a much more capacity would leave a lot of empty seats. Imagine the last band you saw play in a venue like Wells Fargo. If the venue was half-full, you might think it is more indicative of the quality of the band, than the folks at Wells Fargo anticipating other larger attractions that could roll through. On the other hand, building the seating to be scaled would be appropriate. Watch a match at Nottingham Forest or Sheffield Wednesday and you’ll sometimes see the seats lowest to the pitch partitioned or covered with flags. This could be some ideal areas for signage/advertising, as the better seats are going to be at a second level anyway, as you’ll want more of that higher angle to properly see ball movement. Please don’t build a stadium that sits half-empty during match play.
Just name the club Des Moines FC or Des Moines SC. Create the connection between the club and the community. The best teams do this. Also, it’s something that everyone can get behind. Yes, I’m a Menace fan as much as anyone else and they have had an incredible history. But, I feel like this could be a fresh start and a giant canvas to build something even bigger. Des Moines has grown and evolved so much over the past twenty years. Allowing the club to live in the greatness that has evolved since would be an appropriate honoring of the work that’s gone into it. Also, it wouldn’t need to focus on any specific history of the community. It would simply celebrate the whole community. And, it doesn’t need to be the state’s club; it would be a Des Moines-area thing.
Here’s a freebie for a badge/crest/shield. A while back, I had a podcast called The Three Bridges Show. My buddy Pat designed it. I’d suggest something like this for the club badge. You can see it on the ends of scarves, on t-shirts and any other appropriate memorabilia. Simple, direct and classy.
Mascots are for the children. Yeah, that’s harsh, but it’s true. Think of the role of any mascot in professional sports. It’s meant to take the edge off of a serious and high-pressure situation and help kids connect to the game. Soccer doesn’t need it. Diehards won’t appreciate it and more often than not, mascots become a focal point for mocking anyway.
Leave some space in the stadium for a band. Embrace the sounds of soccer culture. No one needs a playlist of today’s Top 40 hits. Have a section for local marching bands to lead the rhythm of play. Connect with high school music groups to come up with easy to remember club supporter chants. Create a songbook with chants from each of the CIML’s high school music bands/choirs. Put the band spot behind an end zone. Put concessions behind the opposite end zone.
Open concessions to local food trucks and restaurants go work. Set it up like the vendor spaces at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. If food trucks can work on the go or at a place like The Hall, it could work here and bring the local cuisine of Des Moines to its supporters and visiting guests.
Open a space for fans to hang out and celebrate the beautiful game. Yeah, Royal Mile, Keg Stand and The Library are good places to catch a match, but having a central, neutral spot to watch and share in the experience of competitions like the World Cup, the MLS playoffs and other international competitions (including MX, Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, EPL and EFL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and more), would help bring fans from around the community together.
Don’t forget that a club begins with a community. The plans are impressive. Nothing that folks do around town is short of anything less that incredible. But, to make this club work, it needs the backbone of a community and the community’s support more than any fancy new stadium could foster. People have to believe in the club and see it as something more than entertainment. It has to represent them, because any soccer team in the world plays for its club and its supporters first.
Support the endeavor. With that, I’ll humbly step off the soapbox and get back to hot takes on the Premier League’s season. As a side note, if you haven’t already signed up to follow the progress of this initiative, head over to USL Pro Iowa and get signed up today. Not sure why the county list is so messed up when you select Iowa as your state, but I’m sure that’s an oversight. Programming forms is more difficult than you can imagine.