Tuesday, July 26, 2005

20,000 Seat Soccer Stadium in Downtown Milwaukee?

Marquette student Michael P. Sever has been in regular contact with the entrepreneur promoting a project to build a 20,000 seat stadium for a Major League Soccer team in downtown Milwaukee, on land cleared when the Park East Freeway was knocked down.

Sever, strongly supporting the project, makes the following argument:
Now that I’ve explained why an MLS team in Milwaukee would be a good thing for the community, I will now explain why MLS will succeed in Milwaukee. The reason that I hear most often though as to why MLS will fail is because “Milwaukee is not a soccer town.” Attendance figures from the indoor Milwaukee Wave in the low 3,000’s are cited, as well as the financial problems for the Wave’s outdoor sister club Milwaukee Wave United, which this past winter was on the verge of folding. These comparisons are not accurate because neither of these teams play “Major League Soccer.” The Milwaukee Wave play indoor soccer, a bastardization of the game most soccer fans love. Comparing Milwaukee Wave with MLS is like comparing the Packers to the Arena Football League. It is just not a legitimate comparison because of the inherent differences in the games and their target audiences. As for the outdoor version of the game, Milwaukee Wave United is a minor league team in every sense of the word. Wave United’s players are part-timers, and Wave United does not even play in an organized league.

That being said, this situation has been seen before in Salt Lake City, Utah. Salt Lake City was home to the Utah Blitzz in the dregs of minor league soccer in summer of 2004. The Blitzz were drawing an average attendance in the hundreds. However, when Real Salt Lake became the 12th member of Major League Soccer this past spring, and US National team stars like Eddie Pope and Clint Mathis signed on to play for the Beehive state outfit, they are now regularly drawing well over 20,000 per game. Is it that unreasonable to believe that Milwaukee would not experience a similar phenomenon with an MLS franchise?
We frankly remain skeptical. But the claim is that this stadium is to be built entirely with private money.

If so, who are we to tell some entrepreneur how to spend his cash?

Except that in cases like this millions of dollars of road, utility and other infrastructure costs are typically borne by government.

Our view is that this project, if it is to fly politically, jolly well better remain something done entirely with private money.

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