Guest opinion: Just like water trails, Central Iowa business leaders need to get behind professional soccer

BY GREG EDWARDS, President and CEO of Catch Des Moines

Des Moines, Iowa - Tuesday, February 25, 2020 9:41 AM - It’s been proved time and time again that when the Greater Des Moines community comes together to back a good idea, be it building the nation’s largest skatepark or a transformational project like Central Iowa Water Trails, we can achieve anything. With so many amazing projects in the pipeline for our region, we must look at each one objectively and prioritize by the practical impact, which is why we’re proud to champion the movement to bring professional soccer to Des Moines.

As the No. 1 minor league sports market in the U.S. (Sports Business Journal), our city doesn’t just love sports, we live sports. We earned that designation by consistently drawing more passionate fans to our minor league events than comparable cities. 

With world-class events like the Drake Relays, NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, Solheim Cup, and the upcoming Ironman triathlon, we've shown that Greater Des Moines is a region that embraces the "big game," no matter the sport. The addition of a pro-level soccer stadium will build on the momentum of our community’s already glowing reputation for investing in sporting events and outdoor recreation spaces. 

Based on research conducted for the Catch Des Moines destination master plan, we know that it’s our events and attractions that bring in visitors. One of the standout recommended strategies to advance Greater Des Moines as a travel destination is to pursue a professional soccer stadium along with enhancing other sporting venues, such as the MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex in West Des Moines and prospective projects like the Cownie Soccer Complex expansion and the Drake University and Des Moines Public Schools joint stadium. 

Multi-use, multi-benefit. 
As the most popular sport in the world, soccer is watched and played by the most diverse audience. Investing in a stadium dedicated to soccer will bring in diverse visitors and will demonstrate that we are a welcoming and inclusive community. 

Besides the direct benefits a professional stadium will bring for soccer fans and the more than 34,000 soccer players currently in Iowa, the stadium will also be used for concerts, festivals and other sporting events. This stadium will be tremendously beneficial to the metro area, as it will allow us to host midsize events that might not be big enough for Wells Fargo Arena but are too big for some of our more intimate venues. 

A multi-use stadium will showcase Central Iowa by attracting more diverse events and audiences, and will put us on the map, not as flyover country, but fly-to country!

Visitors first, talent for the future
Visitors bring in revenue to the metro; additionally, there is a halo effect when visitors experience and then talk about the attractions, restaurants and retailers that make our metro such a great place. 

As more people realize how great the quality of life is in Des Moines, they start to see themselves living and working here. The heightened importance of tourism as it relates to exposure for our destination for talent cannot be overstated. Investing in quality of life projects is not only good for residents, but for visitors who might soon become fellow Des Moines-ians. 

Des Moines: The S’s are silent, our fans get loud!
Whether you’re a business leader, a parent of a player, or an aspiring soccer fan, your support is needed. Together we can make Des Moines the premier central location in the U.S. for professional tournaments and competitions spanning the sporting world. Join me in building excitement for a game-changing soccer stadium in Greater Des Moines. Spread the word: @USLProIowa #USLProIowa.

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